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03/26/08 8:13 PM ET

Influential Gomez struck by motorist

Angels' 84-year-old special assistant in critical condition

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Preston Gomez, a special assistant to general manager Tony Reagins, sustained head injuries on Wednesday morning when he was run over by a motorist at a gas station in Blythe, Calif.

His condition was described as critical, but Gomez, according to a club spokesman, was responding to tests by the afternoon at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif.

"It's tough," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Preston means a lot to all of us here. Definitely, as the day goes on, we're getting a little better news. Hopefully, he'll keep improving. It's definitely something that's weighed heavily on everybody's minds today."

Jeff Wade, detective sergeant for the Blythe Police Department, reported that Gomez, 84, "suffered pretty major head injuries," in what he described as "just a freak and unfortunate accident."

Gomez was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center. Gomez was on his way home with his wife to Chino Hills, Calif., and had stopped for gas at a Chevron station.

Gomez, according to the police report, finished fueling his vehicle and told his wife he was going for a walk, stretching his legs, when he stepped into the next aisle and into the path of a large Dodge pickup truck.

The driver of the truck, Jesse Mashore, 31, of Concord, Calif., was field tested for sobriety and had blood drawn. There were no signs of alcohol or drugs.

"The man was crushed," Wade wrote in the report. "He was holding Mr. Gomez's hand and waiting for paramedics and officers to arrive."

Gomez spent most of Spring Training in camp with the Angels, a vibrant presence whose influence on manager Mike Scioscia has been extensive since they met 30 years ago with the Dodgers.

"He was my first camp leader with the Dodgers," Scioscia said. "Preston was there to take an interest in all us young guys, everything from understanding how missing signs can lose a game to attention to details. He's got a great baseball mind. We just hope and pray he's going to be OK."

Scioscia had withheld comment after conducting a meeting in a quiet Angels clubhouse before a scheduled Cactus League game at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

The first manager of the San Diego Padres in 1969, where he remained until 1972, Gomez also managed the Houston Astros in 1974 and 1975 and the Chicago Cubs in 1980.

A native of Central Preston, Oriente, Cuba, Gomez has been one of the most admired and respected gentlemen in the game for more than 60 years, the last 27 with the Angels as a Major League coach and then in his current role.

At 21, he played shortstop for the Washington Senators in 1944, batting .286 in eight games, and spent the rest of his playing career in the Minor Leagues.

Gomez launched his managerial career in the Mexican Winter League and was hired to a Minor League coaching position by the Dodgers. He led Spokane to the Pacific Coast League pennant in 1960 and also coached for Houston and St. Louis.

Gomez was inducted into the Hispanic Baseball Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 2003.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.