Mariners notebook: Dee Gordon balancing his strong commitment to both family and baseball
If you remember all the way back to February (which perhaps seems like a lifetime ago), you might recall that Dee Gordon was a late arrival in Mariners camp for the best of reasons as his wife was due to give birth to the couple’s first child.
A monumental moment for any first-time parent, but if you know anything about Dee Gordon you probably know that there was extra for him. A doting uncle – Super Uncle, in fact – to his nephew, anytime the child was around you wondered how it was possible Gordon had yet to start a family of his own. It was always the plan and as such, according to Gordon, it didn’t change his perspective on baseball or life very much as it was something he had been working toward for some time.
“Honestly, I’ve always set myself up for this moment to have a wife and a kid so it didn’t change me very much,” he said Sunday in his first interview of Summer Camp. “I have been setting myself up my whole career. I have always told myself that I didn’t want to bring my wife or a child into a bad situation so I always made sure I played as good as possible for when or if they were coming and now I am living my dream.”
Living his dream includes playing baseball and Gordon kept himself ready to play during the coronavirus shutdown by hitting in an inflatable batting cage at home and scheduling workouts with Mariners teammates Mallex Smith and Dylan Moore, who were nearby in Florida. Despite the challenges presented in attempting to play baseball in a pandemic, for Gordon there was no thought given to not playing. Again, family came into play.
“It was automatic,” he said of his decision. “Especially my biggest dream with my mom not being able to watch me play, I just took it as my daughter watching me play would be as good or greater. My decision to play baseball never wavered at all. I love this game too much. I am having too much fun being in the major leagues and I would never want to miss out on the opportunity to be in the majors. No disrespect to anyone else because everyone has little kids like myself but I have a fantastic wife who has my back.”
In the final year of his contract with the Mariners, who hold a $1 million buyout for 2021, and with the team’s commitment to youth, Gordon is in the strange position of being a team leader without a position. In spring training he was candid about his thoughts on the matter, pointing out that isn’t how most players have come into the game.
“I’ve never walked in a locker room where young guys have positions,” he said. “They need to take advantage of this and be grateful for it because this doesn’t happen very often for young players who aren’t proven.”
In intrasquad play, now he finds himself playing a different position every day, usually on the team made up of backups and those who will soon be taxi squad-bound. The role is not the focus for Gordon, however.
“I’m just playing baseball,” he said. “I’m just going to play baseball. Baseball always takes care of everything no matter what is put in front of you. Baseball always finds a way to take care of you if you do the right things and I am just going to continue to do the right things and I will see what happens.”
The right things will be under extraordinary conditions but Gordon came prepared. There is no player who has been more consistent in wearing a mask on the field than Gordon, who wears the full neck, gaiter-style face covering complete with his Flash logo.
“It’s more to keep my daughter and family protected,” he pointed out. “We don’t know what’s going to happen when we travel to these games or anything like that. I just want to keep my family protected. I don’t want to come and bring something back to my family that could hurt my wife or my daughter.”
In the process of keeping his family safe Gordon is also giving himself the opportunity to keep himself on the field, something he and everyone around him have worked hard to be able to do. Pandemic baseball is different but watching the intrasquad games you can’t miss the exchanges on the field between players or the joy they display when they run to their positions. This is where they want to be, this is what they worked hard for amid the uncertainty that there would even be a season. It is appreciation, but Gordon insists it is not a new appreciation.
“I play with a joy and a love for the game every day,” he said. “It didn’t take a pandemic for me to miss baseball. I miss it every day I don’t get to play it. I miss it if I am not even playing it that day. It didn’t take a pandemic for me to miss the game.”
• In Sunday’s Mariners intrasquad game, Taijuan Walker threw 60 pitches in 3 1/3 innings in his final tuneup before the season begins. He worked in and out of trouble in two of his innings, giving up three hits and three walks while striking out three and not allowing a run to score. “I will be ready to go,” Walker said after coming out of the game about his scheduled start in Game 2 of the opening series in Houston. “I feel strong. I definitely will be ready for Saturday.”
• Kyle Lewis had one of the harder hits off of Walker, a double to left center on a slider that was left up a bit. Walker could be seen talking to Lewis after the inning, getting his input on what he saw, where the ball was. The next time Lewis came around Walker struck him out on a slider that stayed down.
• The Astros have announced their rotation order so it looks like we will see Marco Gonzales/Justin Verlander, Walker/Lance McCullers Jr., Yusei Kikuchi/Zack Greinke and Kendall Graveman/Josh James as the pitching matchups in the four-game opening series.
• The Mariners ran extra innings simulations Sunday, starting a runner on second base in two of the final innings of the intrasquad game with both teams scoring runs in both opportunities. For the record there was no bunting.