Catching Up With Nick Gordon
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of Nick Gordon)Nick Gordon had a strong spring training, but when teams broke camp to start their seasons, he found himself on the Rochester IL with a stomach ailment and missed all of April. He returned to the Red Wings at the start of May and began hitting right away. In 70 games this season, he has hit .298/.342/.459 (.801) with 29 doubles, three triples and four home runs. He also stole 14 based in 17 attempts.
It was a terrific showing, especially after the struggles he endured in the second half of 2018 for Rochester when he hit just .212/.262/.283 (.544) in 99 games in the International League.
Gordon has always worked hard to improve in the offseason. He continued to work out with his brother (Dee) and others such as Francisco Lindor under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. However, he also took his struggles at minor league baseball’s highest level last year and learned from it. It has paid off with his much-improved stat line in 2019.
Gordon said, “I’ve felt more like myself, knowing that last year I let a lot get to me and I changed a bunch of things. This year, it’s about trusting what I did (in the offseason) and what I’ve done.”
Gordon, still just 23 years old, was competing with and against players several years older than him and many with big league service time. He continued, “Not getting into my own head. They (opponents) are going to be good, and I have to be good. You can’t just go out and beat up on everybody and then get down when you don’t. It doesn’t work that way. Just needed to stick to the things I worked with and the things I did during the offseason and stick with them, stick to a routine.”
Unfortunately, as August started, Gordon was hit in the back leg by a pitch and was placed on the IL the next day.While it looked like a “normal” back-knee hit by pitch, it was anything but that.
“I actually couldn’t walk. It was a little tough to walk for a week. It was difficult, a lot of pain. It was very unusual, kind of a freak accident.”
As for a return, he hopes to get back “as soon as possible,” but he understands that it will be “however long it takes.”
The reality is that Gordon has been very healthy for the most part since being the Twins first-round draft pick in 2014 out of high school in Orlando. By season, he has played in 120 games, 116 games, 122 games, and 141 games in 2018.
It would be fair to say that he isn’t exactly enjoying his time on the IL either. “It isn’t a good feeling. The days are so much longer. It’s been tough.”
But he has chosen not to sulk and to try to get some benefit from it, trying to make it into an opportunity for learning.
“It’s been a lot of learning, a lot of self-time and picking up myself and paying attention to things around the game. I’ve taken the time and felt like I’ve learned, so I don’t feel like I wasted time but it’s been kind of frustrating not being out there.”
Throughout the season, there have been very frequent Red Wing travelers on the flight between Rochester and Minneapolis. It’s been pretty exciting for him to see teammates get their call to the big leagues.
One of his good friends in the Twins organization for several years is LaMonte Wade. They have played with each other each season since 2016. One night in late June, the two were hanging out together.
“It was awesome. I was actually with him when he got called. It was a cool experience to see, knowing how hard he worked for it. He goes about it the right way. He wants to be better and he wants to win. When he got that call, that opportunity, I was so excited for him. I was really happy for him.”
What did Gordon tell Wade?
“I didn’t know what to tell him because I haven’t got that call. It was overwhelming. It was exciting. So I just told him to go up there and do your thing. Play your game. You’re there for a reason!”
Has seeing several teammates get that call to the big leagues been motivating for Gordon, or has it been a source of frustration?
“I don’t really believe much in being mad about things I can’t control. It doesn’t really frustrate me. Motivation? I mean, I’ve been motivated to get to the big leagues since I was a little kid. There is always more motivation there. When stuff like that happens, it’s more positive than negative (seeing teammates called up). It’s just so great seeing guys I’ve played with for years get a chance at the top level.”
But through any frustrations and struggles, Gordon has had a very good support system. As we have discussed with him before, he gets a lot of support and encouragement from his family, including his father (Tom) and brother (Dee). But Nick spoke glowingly of the support players get from within the organization.
“We were just talking about it today. There are a lot of guys in our organization that are good people, awesome human beings. It’s awesome to be around. In situations that are tough, your teammates are there.”
In Rochester, Gordon is one of the youngest Red Wings. He is able to hear from older teammates who have spent time in the big leagues and experienced the highs and lows of this baseball life. In Ft. Myers, he is working and rehabbing with several other players who are injured. They are able to confide with and in each other.
“Everybody understands that this game is hard. Everybody wants to be on the field. They are there for you, have your back. You can’t ask for more than that. I have a lot of guys that I’m close to. There are a lot of guys in the organization that are just awesome.”
Gordon said that he stays away from rumors in the game as much as possible. While his name was occasionally mentioned in trade rumors, it was one of his teammates that ended up being traded at the deadline..
Regarding Jaylin Davis, Gordon noted, “He’s awesome. He’s just great. Every single time he steps in the box, a baseball is about to get hit hard. He’s getting an opportunity. He’s a great guy, a great hitter I’m happy for him.” He continued, “”But I didn’t want to see him go. I loved playing with him.”
One thing is certain when speaking to Nick Gordon. He has a strong passion for the game of baseball. He speaks with such great perspective, and his perspective has changed to some degree since this time last year. Sure, the passion for baseball remains the same and his drive to play in the big leagues for a long time is still very strong. But he has other priorities in life too. At least one.
Last September, Jaxon Nicholas Gordon was born.
As excited as Gordon sounds when talking about baseball, you can hear the joy coming through the phone when he talks about his son.
Has becoming a father changed his perspective or anything in his day-to-day life?
“I would say it is more in my day-to-day. Having my son definitely does show me how to care and I feel like I care more for people. I’ve always loved kids, but I love this kid to an entirely different level. It’s a smile of joy. It’s everything that I wish for. I pray for him. I love him endlessly. It definitely drives me. I spend as much time as I can with him. It’s tough in the season. Down in Florida, I’ve seen him a lot more. He’s an awesome little man.”
Congratulations to Nick and his family. Hopefully he can get healthy and get back on the field before season’s end, and maybe get a trip to Minneapolis in September.
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