SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) Tom Gordon was dressed appropriately.
Given the nickname ”Flash” during his 21-year career as a major league pitcher, Gordon wore a natty vest and pinstriped suit for a special occasion Thursday night at MLB Network Studios.
His son, Nick, was drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Twins – carrying on a family tradition. Nick Gordon’s older brother, Dee, is having a solid season as the starting second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
”Being around the game and experiencing all that stuff, it’s crazy when you experience it for yourself. I mean, you can be there and be around the game as much as you want, but when it’s actually happening to you, it’s a totally different feeling,” Nick Gordon said. ”I mean, it’s helped me to prepare for the things that I’m about to get ready to go through. But this feeling, you have to feel it for yourself to know this feeling.”
Nick Gordon, an athletic high school shortstop from Florida, said Derek Jeter is his idol. Jeter and Tom Gordon, a three-time All-Star, were teammates with the Yankees from 2004-05.
”My favorite memories were New York when I used to go in and talk to Derek Jeter and he used to tell me things and give me wristbands and batting gloves and shoes and all that,” Nick Gordon said. ”That was so great to me. I remember every bit of it, every little moment that we had in New York, just being able to go on the field and play catch with my dad, and he used to take us out in center field and let us hit balls in the seats. I mean, it felt like the greatest thing ever.”
Wearing a Twins jersey and cap, Nick Gordon was asked what he thought about playing in Minnesota.
”I know it’s very cold,” he said. ”I’m ready to adjust to the climate and get out there.”
But when he took a phone call from the Twins, Nick Gordon couldn’t quite make out who was on the line in all the commotion.
”I think it was the GM,” he said. ”I know it’s somebody very important.”
Father and son posed for pictures together after a big embrace.
”It’s just so hard taking this all in right now,” Nick Gordon said. ”It’s the greatest feeling.”
Tom Gordon said waiting to find out where his son would be selected was much more nerve-wracking than trying to close out a playoff game in the late innings.
”I know what you all are saying: Is Flash really that short?” he said. ”To get Nicholas into this position, along with what his brother’s doing, it’s a wonderful feat for us.”
ALOHA: Kodi Medeiros came a long way to make a little history.
The left-hander went 12th overall to the Milwaukee Brewers, becoming the first high school player from Hawaii to be selected in the first round of the June draft. And he was at MLB Network Studios, nearly 5,000 miles from home, to hear his name called in person by Commissioner Bud Selig.
”It’s just been an amazing experience,” Medeiros said. ”When they sent the invitation, I just told my parents, you know, we’re going to attend this. And they were willing to attend it, too, because they were like, why are we going to miss this? You know, getting invited means a lot. … I didn’t want to miss being here.”
So, how has his first trip to the New York area compared to Hawaii?
”It’s a lot different. Really different,” Medeiros said. ”The people are really busy.”
Medeiros said he received a good-luck text message Wednesday night from Hawaii’s most famous major leaguer, All-Star outfielder Shane Victorino of the Boston Red Sox.
”I guess the people from Hawaii, since it’s a small place, we’re just looking out for each other and trying to represent our island and represent the state and, you know, just trying to see kids from the island make it big,” Medeiros said.
The other three players from Hawaii chosen in the opening round of the June draft all attended the University of Hawaii, including St. Louis Cardinals rookie second baseman Kolten Wong. He was the 22nd pick in 2011.
Medeiros said Wong lives about 3 miles from his house. Wong’s brother, Kean, was drafted in the fourth round by Tampa Bay last year after being teammates with Medeiros back home.
”A lot more kids are putting in the work. Kids are finding out that they need to attend showcases and get out there since we live in the state of Hawaii. Because in fact, for me, since last year, I didn’t even think I’d be here,” Medeiros added. ”Ever since I went out onto the national stage and performed, it just changed my life.”
Medeiros said he enjoys spear fishing in his spare time, not exactly a common hobby among big leaguers.
”You’re in the water and you have to aim and shoot,” he said. ”I’d be doing that now if I wasn’t here, actually.”
SWEET MUSIC: Frank Viola can’t wait to get to work in Las Vegas. First, he spent the night in New Jersey.
Just more than two months after open-heart surgery, Viola represented the New York Mets at the Major League Baseball draft. Looking fit and healthy, he said he was set to fly out Friday morning to resume his job as pitching coach for their Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.
”Everything’s good. I just got the OK from the doctor this past Tuesday,” the 54-year-old Viola said. ”I’m really excited to get going again and I’m very thankful that they basically caught it and were able to take care of things.”
”I’ll be suited up for the game tomorrow night,” he added. ”I’m like a little kid. Yeah, I mean, the rehab, everything went so well. I can’t tell everybody how appreciative I am of the Met organization for giving me the opportunity to rehab and recuperate and get myself in the shape I’m in, and now it’s my time to help them out a little bit and get back to coaching.”
A 20-game winner for his hometown Mets in 1990, Viola previously served as a Class-A pitching coach for the club. He was hired in January for the same role with the 51s, but a heart problem was detected during a spring training exam.
”The big thing was changing your diet, eating right, losing the weight. I mean, I let myself go. It was a hell of a wake-up call, but it was something I was fortunate I was able to do something about, take care of and go on,” Viola said. ”Four weeks after surgery, the heart, the aorta itself, was 100 percent.”
Viola won’t be ready to throw batting practice for another two weeks or so, but he’s already playing catch.
”You don’t realize how much you miss something until you miss it,” he said. ”The first thing I thought when the Mets said you’ve got to shut everything down, you’re going to have heart surgery, it wasn’t, I better take care of myself, or what’s going on with me? It was like, oh God, now I’ve got to have somebody cover for me in Vegas. Those are my guys!”
Viola, a left-hander nicknamed ”Sweet Music,” won the 1988 AL Cy Young Award with Minnesota. He went 176-150 with a 3.73 ERA in 15 major league seasons with Minnesota (1982-89), the Mets (1989-91), Boston (1992-94), Cincinnati (1995) and Toronto (1996).
Viola is looking forward to working closely with some of New York’s touted pitching prospects, including Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Viola said he texted Syndergaard and wished him good luck in his return from the disabled list Thursday night, and Syndergaard responded, ”You couldn’t get here a day earlier?”
”It’s going to be fun,” Viola said. ”They’re great kids. You know the ability is there. It’s just a question of getting a little seasoning, a little experience.”
Viola’s daughter, Brittany, was a diver on the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics.
SWAN SONG: Every year, Commissioner Bud Selig likes to talk about how far the Major League Baseball draft has come during the many decades he’s spent in the game, from an almost mysterious conference call among the clubs to a made-for-TV event broadcast live in prime time.
Selig is set to retire in January, so Thursday night was his last time up at the podium announcing first-round picks. He was asked if such things make him wistful this year.
”You know, I’m not to that point yet,” Selig said. ”That’s a great question, and I’ve thought about it. But I really don’t think about it in that regard. But I guess I would say to you that I’m so comfortable in my decision that I’ve sort of accepted this now as part of what I’m doing. But I’ve still got eight or nine months.”
Selig told a couple of favorite stories about how his Milwaukee Brewers came to draft Robin Yount and Paul Molitor when he owned the team. He went to the MLB Fan Cave in downtown New York City for the first time Thursday and said he had fun.
He also enjoys announcing that teams are ”now on the clock!”
”Everybody in baseball kids me about that,” Selig said. ”Yeah, I am. I’m adding some flourish. And this is enjoyable for me.”
Selig said last September he will retire on Jan. 24, 2015, after 22 years in charge, two shy of the record set when Kenesaw Mountain Landis held the job from 1920-44.
REMEMBER ME?: Jacob Gatewood, a high school shortstop from California, was selected 41st overall by Milwaukee.
Gatewood put on an impressive power display last summer in a promotional event during the All-Star Home Run Derby, hitting several balls into the upper reaches of spacious Citi Field. He attended the draft at MLB Network Studios.
”I couldn’t wait to hear my name called,” he said.
Gatewood’s father, Henry, was chosen by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the January draft in 1982 and spent seven seasons as a minor league catcher.
AROUND THE HORN: First-round breakdown: 20 pitchers – 10 each from college and high school – including six college RHPs, six high school RHPs, four college LHPs and four high school LHPs. Eight college position players were taken in the first 34 picks, and six high school position players. … The state of California produced the most first-round picks with eight, followed by Florida (five) and Texas (three). … After forfeiting draft picks to sign free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran last offseason, the New York Yankees did not make their first selection until No. 55 overall. They chose left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren out of Mississippi State. ”Jacob has two major league pitches that are above average and possess swing-and-miss quality,” said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ director of amateur scouting. ”He has been extended for multiple innings and holds his stuff consistently.” … The only pair of teammates to go in the first round was North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner. Rodon went No. 3 overall to the Chicago White Sox and Turner was picked 13th by the San Diego Padres. It was the 12th time in the last 13 years that at least one pair of college or high school teammates was chosen in the first round.
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