Nick Gordon remembers times as a child when his father would play catch with him and make him mad.
Tom Gordon would take tennis balls and soft baseballs and flip them at his son’s body. “You can’t catch this,” he would say to him. The father wanted to teach him not to be afraid of the ball, that the ball will hit him sometimes. And Nick would learn how to catch those balls.
“He was only teaching me,” Nick Gordon said. “He was giving me better hands. I’m so competitive now. I like winning.”
Nick Gordon has grown up with a major leaguer for a father. He has been in major league clubhouses. He has watched his brother, Dee, go through up and downs while establishing himself as the starting second baseman for the Dodgers.
Now it’s Nick’s turn to put those bloodlines to good use. The Twins selected Gordon with fifth overall pick of baseball’s amateur draft Thursday. The lefthanded-hitting shortstop comes to the organization with some believing he was the best position player available in the draft. Nick and his family were at draft headquarters in Secaucus, N.J., to take in the moment.
“It’s just a thrill for him to be able to play for an organization that really showed him in the last two to three months that they liked what he has done and how he’s gone about doing it,” said Tom Gordon, a righthander who played 21 years, was named to three All-Star teams, won 17 games one year and saved 46 games in another.
Nick Gordon, 18, hit .494 with 10 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 27 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 99 plate appearances as a senior at Olympia High School in Orlando. He hit .505 with 15 doubles, six triples and 12 stolen bases as a junior.
Even with power-hitting outfield prospect Alex Jackson on the board, the Twins still selected Gordon, who they believe is a bona fide shortstop.
“He’s got great work ethic,” said Deron Johnson, the Twins’ scouting director. “He’s got good makeup. Great kid. Big-league bloodlines, obviously with his brother and his dad. We expect big things from him.
“In the scouting room, we always say the big-league bloodlines are going to help at some point. We really don’t know. But he is made up right.”
Not everyone in the organization believes Gordon will hit for power, but Johnson does. If that happens, Johnson compared him to J.J. Hardy and Stephen Drew.
Gordon, listed at 6-2 and 170 pounds, always has compared himself to his brother, but he also wants to pattern his game after another current major leaguer.
“I want to be a player like Derek Jeter is, one day,” he said. “He’s a leader, he’s accountable, he’s professional, he’s always in the right place on and off the field.
“And my brother, when my brother plays, he plays hard. He doesn’t take the game for granted. He’s earned it. He’s worked his way through and has made adjustments, and I want to be able to learn how to do that.”
Tom Gordon called his younger son a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter who is just starting to learn how to realize that he has the strength to hit for some power.
Nick Gordon doesn’t think it will be a problem.
“I also think I can hit 20-25 bombs a year,” he said. “I can be that leadoff guy like Derek Jeter.”
Gordon, represented by Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, has been to Minnesota, having played in a Perfect Game National Showcase last June.
“The one thing I know is that it’s cold in Minnesota,” he said. “Got to get ready for that cold, got to make that adjustment. But if I’m cold, then everyone else is cold. I’m going to enjoy playing in the cold.”
With their second-round pick, the Twins continued their recent trend of drafting power arms and selected Louisville righthander Nick Burdi. The Cardinals’ all-time saves leader has a fastball that has reached 100 mph several times and a slider as hard as 93 mph.
Burdi, 21, is 3-1 with a 0.54 ERA and 16 saves this season. In 33⅓ innings, he has 58 strikeouts, 10 walks and an opponent batting average of .125. There’s a chance he could be one of the first players from this draft to reach the majors. Burdi was drafted by the Twins out of Downers Grove (Ill.) South High in 2011 but opted for college. He threw 92-93 then — which is now how fast his slider is.
“He got a lot better,” Johnson said. “… We pegged him as a reliever coming out of high school. We did see the potential of the fastball getting better, and it has.”