ELIZABETHTON — Nick Gordon is only 18 years old, but he’s spent his entire life preparing for today.
Gordon and the Elizabethton Twins open the Appalachian League season tonight when they travel to Greeneville. It will be the first professional game for Gordon, a multi-talented shortstop and the Twins’ first-round draft pick this year.
“I’ve been ready to play pro ball it seems like forever,” Gordon said Wednesday as the team prepared for its final preseason workout. “But I know it took a lot to get here. I’m looking forward to it and I can’t wait to get started.”
Gordon’s father, Tom “Flash” Gordon, pitched in the majors for 21 years. Nick’s older brother, Dee, is a second baseman for the Dodgers and in his fourth major-league season. Nick and his brother were both exposed to the life of a professional baseball player at early ages.
“Being around those things kind of molded me to be the player I am today and the person I am today,” Nick Gordon said. “I know what I’m about to get myself into. Pro ball is no joke.”
Gordon, who received a signing bonus of $3.85 million as the fifth pick in the draft, has made a good first impression on the Twins’ staff.
“I’ve only seem him a few days,” longtime Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said. “I do know he has tremendous ability. Not only does he have outstanding ability, but he wants to learn. His work habits are good. He’s a ‘yes-sir, no-sir’ type of guy and he absorbs things. Sometimes that’s tough to do. It takes a long time.”
Gordon starred at Olympia High School just outside of Orlando, Florida, and has been around the game his entire life, spending plenty of time in major-league clubhouses and fields. Growing up in that kind of environment leaves a lasting impression and makes a young pro seem more ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
“It’s instinct,” Smith said. “He’s been around the game and he knows how to play. A lot of times, at this level, you get guys with great talent — They can throw the ball as hard as anybody, hit the ball as far as anybody, have great eye-hand coordination — but they have to put it all together and apply it to the field. It takes some time, sometimes years. But this guy is in the right spot at the right time and he knows how to handle himself.
“I like his chances to be a good player.”
Tonight’s starting pitcher, Stephen Gonsalves, is ready to see Elizabethton’s new shortstop in action.
“He’s a good player, great talent,” Gonsalves said. “I’m really excited to see what kind of damage he can do out here.”
Gonsalves, a 6-foot-5 lefty, gets the start on the mound in his second stop in Elizabethton. The 2013 fourth-round pick went 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in three Appalachian League starts last season.
“I’m excited,” Gonsalves said. “I’ve been pumped up. I was told about a month ago and I’ve been getting pumped. The whole team’s ready to go.”
Smith is entering his 28th season as a manager or coach with the Twins. His managerial record is 827-518 and his teams have won six Appy League championships. Helping Smith are pitching coach Henry Bonillia and hitting coach Jeff Reed, who enters his 13th year in Elizabethton as a coach.
“There’s something to be said for the continuity of staff,” Smith said. “These guys have a lot of respect for our coaching staff. They come here with that wide eyed enthusiasm. The one thing that brings everybody together is the game.
“The fun part of this job is going out there and working with these guys between the lines. We do the best job we can, and at the end of the year, if we’re in the hunt, great.”
After a three-game set in Greeneville, the Twins’ home opener is set for Sunday at 6 p.m. against Pulaski.comments powered by Disqus