#6: Gordon at the Bat

Everyone who’s ever heard me blab on and on about family knows I’m bonkers about my seven nieces and nephews. Chris Gordon, my oldest nephew at 22 (how is that possible?!), has always been a baseball fanatic. We always attributed some of that to genetics. Chris and my father were basically soulmates, and Dad had grown up worshiping Ted Williams and the Red Sox then added the Cubs to the family baseball altar when he took up residence in the Windy City in 1969. As Chris grew up, his drive and devotion to baseball never waned. He’s a superb athlete, perfectly suited to the sport with his speed, his bat, and his uncanny instincts –– the Natural of our family!

After playing ball for his hometown Colby Community College and the summer Canadian leagues, Chris landed at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, a convenient 96 miles from his mother (my sister Cathy), who lives in Burlington, Iowa. Alas, the transition to BU hasn’t quite panned out as we’d all hoped: Not only is Chris carrying a brutal courseload in cellular and molecular biology (the kid is on his way to his M.D.), but he’s also been relegated to the bench and pinch running/hitting for the Braves.

I hadn’t seen Chris play ball since he was nine or ten, when he came to Austin for UT baseball camp. He had begged his dad to send him to camp, promising, “I’ll pay you back when I make it to the majors”!
Anyway, I FINALLY got to see him in action on March 28, when the Braves took on the Indiana State Sycamores in a bitterly chilly yet sunny day at O’Brien Field, home to Ryne Sandberg’s Peoria Chiefs as well as the BU Braves. After falling behind 6-3, Chris came in to pinch run from second base in the bottom of the eighth inning! When a ball was hit to deep left field, Chris took off only to be thrown out at the plate –– wah! But he played left in the top of the ninth; I don’t think he saw any action. Then in the bottom of the ninth, still trailing, Chris came up to bat, only to receive an intentional walk! He did score (did he?) and BU ended up winning, 8-7, only to drop the next two games against the dreaded Sycamores by identical scores of 16-2! Aunt Cyd sez: A coach whose team isn’t exactly kicking you-know-what really oughta give the guy a chance.

After the game, we went out to dinner and cheered on KU as they dismantled UNLV in the Sweet 16. Chris is as big a KU basketball fan as I am, so that was great fun. But the best part? At 22, Chris knows something it took me nearly 45 years to figure out: He is fully aware that certain things are beyond his control, and all he can do is focus on what he does have control over. He is determined to do the best he can whenever he gets a chance to play. He made me laugh when he announced, “Hey, I’m going to be the king of batting practice. I’ll just keep hitting balls out of the park, and maybe they’ll notice!”

I love that guy!

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