MINNEAPOLIS — During Tom Gordon’s 21-year career as a major-league reliever, he’d often bring his young sons, Dee and Nick, to the ballpark with him. He couldn’t bring them every game, though, so he’d sometimes have to sneak out of his house before his sons saw him leave for work.
That didn’t sit well with Nick, the younger of the two brothers. Whenever Tom would leave him behind, he’d come home to find a young Nick asleep with his mouth full of bubble gum — his way of showing his father that he was disappointed that he didn’t get to go to the park.
"If I left them, there was a problem," Tom Gordon said. "I always knew when he was mad at me. That’s what I was up against with Nicholas. He wanted to be at the ball field every single day."
Now Nick Gordon will have the chance to spend nearly every day at a ball field — and he’ll get paid to do so. The Minnesota Twins announced Monday that they have officially signed Gordon, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft. A high school shortstop from Florida, Gordon was viewed by many as the best position player in the draft. He was linked to the Twins in the days leading up to the draft, so it didn’t come as much surprise when Minnesota took him with the fifth pick.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan confirmed Monday that the Twins signed Gordon to the slot value of the No. 5 pick, which equates to a signing bonus of $3.851 million. That’s a good chunk of change for anybody, especially an 18-year-old.
When asked what he had planned for his newfound millions, Gordon showed his humility with his answer.
"(I’m going to) give that money to my mom and dad and let them put that away," Gordon said Monday at his introductory press conference. "It’s not about that first check for me. It’s about getting to the big leagues, playing well and helping my team."
Tom Gordon was a bit of a journeyman reliever during his career, playing for a total of eight different teams from 1988-2009. He was a three-time All-Star and finished his career with a 3.96 ERA in 890 appearances. Along the way, Nick was able to get a look at life inside a big-league clubhouse. That included meeting his idol, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, when Tom played for New York in 2004 and 2005.
Gordon’s bloodlines — his brother, Dee, is the starting second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers — gave him the physical tools that made him worthy of being a No. 5 overall draft pick. His time spent with his father and around major leaguers has made Nick Gordon ready to take on the challenges he’ll now face as he works his way through the minor leagues.
"Now the real work starts," Gordon said. "It’s time to achieve my goal and my dream. I’m ready to play."
Gordon will begin his pro career in Elizabethton of the Appalachian League after first attending a Twins minicamp in Fort Myers, Fla. It’s not often that 18-year-olds jump right to Elizabethton after they’re drafted, but Minnesota feels Gordon’s skills are good enough that he’ll be able to handle the transition.
"He’s a little bit more of an advanced high school player," Ryan said. "He’s not one of those guys that’s coming from a program that plays 13 games in the spring. He’s been on the circuit. . . . We think that he’s ready to go to Elizabethton. We talked to that. He’s going to be exposed to a lot of college pitching now, and a little different flavor when it comes to counts."
Facing college pitching should be a breeze after Gordon — who hit .494 with 27 RBI as a senior at Olympia High School in Orlando — took his swings against his father. Several years ago, as Tom was nearing the end of his career, Nick stood in the batter’s box to face his dad.
What did the youngster think of his dad’s skills now that he’s retired?
"I don’t know if it’s the major-league stuff, but it’s all right. He does his best," Nick Gordon joked. "I didn’t get to swing the bat too much because there weren’t too many strikes."
Tom Gordon has been through this process twice now, seeing his two sons get drafted six years apart. Dee went in the fourth round back in 2008 and debuted in the majors three years later. Now Nick, a first-round draft pick, is hoping to join his older brother in the big leagues.
The Gordon family has already thought about what will happen if the Twins and Dodgers play each other several years from now, with one brother in each dugout.
"I think about it all the time," Tom Gordon said. "What I do think about, I wonder how that jersey is going to look on me with a Twins side and a Dodgers side. That’s what I think about."