Draft prospect Gordon ready to add to family legacy
High school shortstop is brother of Dodgers speedster, son of former hurler 'Flash'
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nick Gordon sits in a classroom at Olympia High School, two weeks away from the 2014 First-Year Player Draft but only a few minutes before the "senior walkout" that will all but officially end his high school years. While many of his classmates sport T-shirts that read "Out The Door In One Four," Gordon wears a striped polo shirt as he discusses the past, present and future of a baseball career that began at age 4.
Some kids might be nervous at a time like this, with one phase of their life suddenly ending and a completely different journey about to begin. But Gordon is just excited to spend the next few weeks with his family, enjoying a little downtime before the Draft.
Then again, Gordon isn't quite like most amateur players. He has a quarter-century of Major League experience to lean on at times like this.
Gordon's father, Tom -- also known as "Flash" -- pitched in parts of 21 big league seasons. His older brother, Dee, is in his fourth year with the Dodgers. And now Nick Gordon, 18, is one of the top prospects heading into this year's Draft, a likely top-five pick at shortstop with the potential to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother.
"He went through everything, and he knows exactly what I'm about to go through," Gordon said of his father. "He kind of tells me exactly what's about to happen before it happens, so I'm already prepared for it."
Gordon, MLB.com's No. 6 Draft prospect, has spent his entire life around baseball. When he was 4 years old, his mom told Little League officials he was 6 so he could sign up. He's played every year since then and missed "a whole lot of school" while hanging out in Major League clubhouses for as long as he can remember.
"It's a good thing we were smart students," Gordon said, smiling. "Baseball was every single day for me. Even if I wasn't with my dad, it was still baseball. The only time I didn't go see him, I think, was when I had a game."
Those days were full of memorable experiences, like meeting Derek Jeter, his favorite player as a kid -- other than Flash, of course. Meanwhile, his father taught him the fundamentals of baseball, how to think about the game and how to go about his business -- "everything old school," as Gordon puts it. That education continues to this day, as Tom has more time to work with his son.
Over the last few years, Dee has complemented Tom's guidance with a more modern, laid-back perspective of life in the Majors.
"My brother would tell me the new-school ways of things," Gordon said. "With my dad and my brother, it was great. I got it from a pitching standpoint and from a position player's standpoint."
Nick laughed as he admitted his dad throws a better curveball -- "He's the king of the curveball," he said -- and Dee is definitely faster on the bases. But Gordon has certainly proven to be much more than just Flash's son or Dee's brother.
Gordon broke through as an intriguing two-way prospect, an infielder with a cannon of an arm that also served him well on the mound. But he's always wanted to be a shortstop, and he worked exclusively at that position during his senior season. Gordon has drawn rave reviews for his glove work, the reason scouts believe he'll stick at shortstop.
He's got a pretty big fan in Los Angeles, too.
"I'm so proud of him. He was just a little kid following us around, and now he's one of the best prospects in the country," Dee said. "He's smooth in the field, got great instincts, a good arm. He's a leader. He's flamboyant with a lot of energy. He works hard and plays the game the right way. He listens to his coaches. He definitely reminds me of J.J. Hardy, offensively and defensively. He'll be a good everyday shortstop and captain of the infield."
While Gordon could have been drafted solely for his defense, there were some concerns about his hitting. Was he strong enough to handle Major League pitching? How would his 165-pound frame withstand a long professional season?
"A lot of these guys are bigger, and a lot of these guys are stronger," Gordon said. "In the Major Leagues, you're going to have to play 162 games. Being 165 pounds, you ain't going to make it."
He hit the gym five days a week last summer and said he gained 15 pounds. That brought him up to 180 pounds, and there's still room to pack more muscle on his 6-foot-2 frame. But having a little added power behind his swing took Gordon's game to another level this year.
"He's got a plus arm, plus range, very good hands and fielding actions. He's a plus runner," a National League scout said. "The biggest thing he did is he got stronger over the fall and winter, and now his bat's playing very well."
Gordon hit .494/.576/.843 with five homers, two triples and 10 doubles in 27 games as a senior. He stuck to his game plan -- stay up the middle and try to hit the ball to all fields -- and the stronger he got, the harder the ball started coming off his bat.
"Offensively, he's very sound. He's got a great approach. He doesn't try to yank and pull everything like most high school kids do," Olympia High School coach Chuck Schall said. "He's been trained really well. He uses the whole field very well. That makes him a tough guy to get out."
Gordon is committed to Florida State University and spoke highly of the Seminoles' baseball program, suggesting it "wouldn't be too shabby" to continue his career there. But his preparation, potential and pedigree all suggest he's ready to go pro this summer.
And when that moment comes, Gordon is confident his father and brother have helped prepare him for the expectations that come along with his big league bloodline.
"It's pressure, yeah, because you know coming in I have a brother in the big leagues and a dad who played. But I love the pressure. I love to live up to that," Gordon said. "I know what my dad and what my brother have told me.
"I get to go through the experiences that both of them went through, and I know what's about to happen. That pressure is what I live for."