MINNEAPOLIS -- Tens of thousands fathers and sons will enjoy a Major League Baseball game together today -- Father's Day, 2013. Tens of thousands more may slip into a minor league park; hundreds, perhaps thousands may take in a game at the College World Series in Omaha; an untold number will simply enjoy a game of catch or run down ground balls in the backyard or at neighborhood field.
Every son should be so lucky. Every father should be lucky. Every Fathers' Day -- or in this case, the days leading up to it -- should be as memorable as the one father and son Tom "Flash" Gordon and Nicholas "Nick" Gordon enjoyed this week.
Tom and Nick were among the hundreds of sons and dads that gathered in the Metrodome over the last four days and into Monday to be a part of the 2013 Perfect Game National Showcase. As the whole dad-son relationship goes, there really isn't anything especially remarkable about Tom and Nick, at least in terms of the other dad-son relationships enjoyed by the majority of the more than 300 top 2014 prospects that PG invited to the National Showcase this year.
What sets the Gordons apart is what they represent: two generations of excellence on the field of play, with the son hoping to one day at least equal the accomplishments of his dad, and the dad knowing in his heart his son has the ability to surpass anything he may have achieved during his playing career.
"My dad helps me every day," Nick said earlier this week while sitting in a skybox inside the Metrodome. "Whenever I'm not feeling well or when not everything is going my way, he's always there to help me, to get me back on track. He's never steered me wrong -- hasn't steered me wrong yet -- and whenever I need somebody I always go to my dad."
Nicholas Gordon, 17, has always had Flash to provide some baseball insight, but it also cannot be denied that the young man has been blessed with a heaping helping of natural ability. A shortstop and right-handed pitcher who calls Windermere, Fla., home and will be a senior at Olympia High School in the fall, Nick is ranked the No. 2 top overall national prospect (No. 1 shortstop) in the 2014 graduating class.
During Thursday's workout session at the PG National, Nick threw an event-best 94 mph across the infield and during a short pitching stint Saturday ran his fastball up to 92 mph; he also ran a 6.68-second 60-yard dash.
"It's great to play against the top competition," he said. "It helps me to push myself and I love coming out here and competing against these guys."
Sitting up in one of the Metrodome's box seats, taking it all in, was Tom -- or Flash or Dad, take your pick. He has been there for every one of the 19 PG events Nick has attended since 2010 and has enjoyed the ride at every stop along the way.
"It's a thrill, because as a parent you always want to see your kids go out there and succeed and become a whole lot better person (and) player," Tom said Thursday. "In every aspect you just want your kids to go out there and be themselves, for the most part, but it's been a dream come true. It's been a dream come true to watch my older son (Dee) play; it's a dream come true to watch my youngest son play ... I'm always riding that high rollercoaster."
Tom's oldest son, Devaris "Dee" Gordon, 25, is a shortstop with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dee was a fourth-round pick of the Dodgers in 2008 and made his big league debut in 2011. He has played 17 games with the big club this season, but blocked by Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, he's currently at Triple-A Albuquerque exploring a possible switch to second base.
Right-hander Tom "Flash" Gordon enjoyed a 21-year big league career as both a starter and a closer, including his first eight years with the Kansas City Royals (he later enjoyed stints with the Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Diamondbacks). He appeared in 890 games, won 138 of them and saved another 158 with 1,928 strikeouts in 2,108 innings. Flash retired in 2009 at age 41 when Nick was 14 years old.
"He's been there and done that; he knows it all," Nick said when asked what sort of wisdom his dad imparts. "Whatever it takes for me to become a better player he's always there to tell me what I need to do and (remind me of) that extra mile that I need to go and that I always need to put in the work. He always makes sure my head stays on straight."
When Nick began his Perfect Game career, he actually played for his father on travel ball team called the Florida Flash. Tom folded that team early last summer when Nick decided to go play for FTB Baseball.
"It was great, because having my dad there -- he knows me best and helped me with everything I needed to do -- but I think sometimes he likes it better just watching me," Nick said of the Florida Flash experience while attending last year's PG Junior National Showcase here in the Metrodome. "I've learned a ton from him -- pitching, infield. He played the infield, too, so he helps me with that."
Tom Gordon does enjoy sitting back and watching his youngest son perform (He and his wife Yolanda also have a middle son Thomas, 22, and a daughter Cameron, 13). In that respect he's no different from the other dads at the PG National -- he just might be watching from with an entirely different perspective.
"All I ever wanted to do was be a baseball player," Tom said. "I had my heroes and idols and all that and that was great, because when I got the chance to get into the big leagues and get around professional ball, there were a lot of people that were always instrumental in helping me learn a lot more about the game. I was so young but I was also so energetic; I just wanted to find out as much as I could."
Tom, the dad, paused briefly before continuing.
"Now you see these kids getting together at such wonderful events like these Perfect Game events, you see these kids from all over the country competing to get themselves in the position for these scouts to like to what they're doing," he said. "It helps the scouts, it also helps baseball and it helps all of us because it gives these kids a chance to come together."
When Nick Gordon was at the 2012 PG Junior National Showcase a year ago, he was ranked the No. 4 national prospect in his class; he has now climbed to No. 2 (only Escondido, Calif., catcher Alex Jackson, who was also here this past week, is ranked higher). He is committed to Florida State and is also projected as an early first round selection in the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft, possibly going with one of the first 10 picks. Despite those details, he isn't satisfied.
"I've been OK with it; I wouldn't say I'm pleased because it's not over yet," Nick said of his progression as a ballplayer. "At the end of next year, when I know I went out and busted my butt every single game and left it all on the field, then I can say I'll be pleased."
His dad, on the other hand, likes very much what he's seen.
"Nicholas has a real good feel for the game of baseball itself," Tom said."I think what I'm seeing is a kid that is able to make some transitions and become a special player on the field and off the field, and also be able to make some adjustments, but he still has a lot of work. He's far, far away from being a guy where you can say that he's just totally got the whole feel for it, because once you learn it all, then it's time to leave; at the same time I'm really impressed with some of the things that he does."
It's Father's Day, 2013. It's a day when sons can be proud of their dads, and dads can be proud of their sons. And if you're a father or a son -- or both -- perhaps you've been as fortunate as the Gordons and have been able to spend a lot of time together at a ballpark or ball field of your choice.
"It's been very special," Nick Gordon said. "I'm so glad that my dad has been able to come with me everywhere that I've been; without my dad I don't know where I'd be right now."