Gordon follows in dad's big league footsteps
Infielder getting chance to spend quality time with 'Flash' leading up to Father's Day
LOS ANGELES -- Dad wasn't around much as Dee Gordon grew up, but the Dodgers' second baseman has always been fine with it.
Dad chose the life of a professional baseball player, and he turned into a real good one, Tom "Flash" Gordon's 21-year career was highlighted by three All-Star Games, a Rolaids Relief Award and more than $55 million in earnings.
Dee has followed in the family business, reinventing himself this year as a rangy second baseman and basestealing leadoff hitter after his shortstop career was short-circuited by injury and the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez.
Now retired, Tom Gordon is free to be a full-time father to Dee's little brother Nick -- the No. 5 overall pick by Minnesota in last week's First-Year Player Draft. Tom is spending this weekend with Nick for his professional debut, but will catch up with Dee for a late Father's Day celebration on the Dodgers' next homestand.
"We won't be doing anything crazy," said Dee. "Dad doesn't like gifts. He'll come to the game, we'll go eat and then we'll chill. When Dad comes in, it's usually about him. He really enjoys going to the game and just watching. As a player, he never did that."
Dee said it never bothered him that Dad was at Spring Training or on the road or playing in one of his eight "home" cities until retiring in 2009. Dee would join him when school let out for the summer and share him with the rest of the family in the winter.
"When I was young, he was playing and trying to establish himself the way I'm doing now, and I always respect that," said Dee.
"He had to work hard to feed me and my three sisters and two brothers. I always understood that and I wasn't going to be selfish because I needed my Dad. He always made sure I had a big support group. Really, I didn't need much. With all I went through, I grew up a strong kid."
And Dee had greater challenges growing up than the fact his father was away. Dee was born two months premature, weighing four pounds, two ounces. Dee was a 6-year-old at school when his mother was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend.
Dee was raised mostly by his grandmother and uncles, who Dee said taught him at least as much about baseball and life, as his father did. Battling his way back to the Major Leagues this year, 2 1/2 years after he did it for the first time, is par for the course for Gordon, who is 30 pounds heavier and at least that much stronger than when he was first called up in 2011.
"I've been fighting since the day I was born," he said. "They doubted I would live. I've been doubted my whole life."
Now Dee is the Major League leader in stolen bases, on pace to be the first to steal at least 100 bases in a season since Vince Coleman in 1987. Whether or not he gets the votes, Gordon is making enough of an impact on offense and defense to be considered for his first All-Star Game.
Dee was a hoop star and didn't play baseball until his senior year of high school. But by the time he attended Southeastern University in Florida, he was convinced he could be a Major League Baseball player. By then, Dee had already been working out with his dad's Phillies teammates. The Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round in 2008, and he was fast-tracked to push Rafael Furcal right out of the organization by the summer of 2011.
That turned out to be rushing it and Gordon was forced into a career reset at Triple-A, working his way back with a willingness to play in two countries last winter, then emerging from a pack of contenders to win the starting second-base job this spring.
He plays a different position than his father, but Dee said their game is similar in other ways.
"Dad came to see me in New York a few weeks ago and we spent some time just walking around, because he said he never did that in all the years he played, and he even played for the Yankees," said Dee. "He was always so focused and determined to be great, he didn't do anything but play.
"It's weird, but I'm about the same way, too. When I first came up, I liked to have fun. But it didn't mesh with me playing. I've learned from him to relax, rest, stay out of trouble and it helps me play better."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.