FORT MYERS, Fla. – The pitcher known as “Flash” during a long and mostly interesting Major League career has transitioned from working alongside some of the best professional players in history to working with kids who hope to someday follow his footsteps into the big-leagues.
Tom “Flash” Gordon, who spent 21 seasons in the bigs as both a starter and reliever for eight clubs from both leagues, is here this weekend with his own 18U and 16U teams called the Florida Flash, a two-year-old Orlando-based program.
The reason for the trip southwest was so Gordon’s two squads could participate in the Perfect Game 18U and 16U WWBA Memorial Day Classic being played at 12 sites in the Fort Myers area.
Gordon, 43, said he and his brother, Clyde “Chop” Pough, decided to form the Florida Flash after both had retired from professional baseball a little over two years ago. A third brother that also played professionally, Anthony Gordon, helps out with the coaching.
“(Pough) decided he wanted to get into coaching and I always wanted to be able to give back in that manner,” Gordon said. “I felt like with my knowledge of the game, my understanding of baseball and being around the game for as long I have, I had a lot to offer. I wanted to make sure I contributed in that manner.”
Gordon spoke on Saturday from the covered grandstand at Park T. Piggott Memorial Field, the main stadium at the Terry Park Complex. He was waiting for the start of a game between the Florida Flash’s 16U team and the Florida Bulls, an outfit out of Punta Gorda.
He was relaxed and conversational as he awaited the start of the game, which he would watch from the grandstand after spending most of the pre-game on the field and in the dugout.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve really been enjoying it,” Gordon said of his coaching activities. “I wasn’t sure how in depth I wanted to totally get into it, but now that I’ve been around it for a whole year, I enjoy it a lot. I think it’s what I need because … I’m still getting a chance to be on the field with the kids. I feel like I’m so close to them that I’m a part of what they’re doing and their progression every day.”
The Flash 18U team split its first two games this weekend while the 16U team beat Team Latin American 16U, 7-0, in its opener Friday then battled the Florida Bulls do a 3-3 tie Saturday afternoon.
One of the reasons Gordon is so heavily involved is because his young son, Nicholas, is a burgeoning pitching and shortstop prospect in the class of 2014 who pitched Saturday afternoon for the Flash 16U. He is listed at 6-foot, 150-pounds but looks smaller. Despite that, his fastball reached 85 mph.
“I think Nicholas is a lot more ahead of the game from even when I was 15 or 16,” Gordon said. “His abilities to pitch, I think, are pretty high up there because you have a kid that has four pitches already and he can throw them at anytime. I think he feels really comfortable being able to pitch to contact and pitch ahead of the count.”
He has another son, Devaris Gordon, playing at Triple-A Albuquerque in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system.
Gordon accomplished a lot during his long Major League career. A starter early in his career and closer in the twilight of it, he compiled a 138-126 record with 158 saves and 1,928 strikeouts in 2,108 innings. He played his first eight seasons with the Royals, and then hopped around to the Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Diamondbacks.
He recorded 46 saves for the Red Sox in 1998 and came back eight years later to notch 38 for the Phillies – at the age of 38. He made his debut in 1988 and retired early in the 2009 season after pitching in 890 games.
“Because I played and because I also saw so much happen in the game, you feel like that at the Major League level you learn so much and you should know pretty much everything,” Gordon said. “But what makes you good and what makes you better that day is that you learn something each and every day and you get better as you go along.”
He continued that thought when asked why his brothers are involved with the Flash:
“It’s good to be around a lot of people who have played the game and at the same time are willing to get out here and teach these kids and give them a chance to see what we know and how we can help them to someday develop and grow into college players or professional athletes.”
Perhaps because of the occasional challenges he often faced as a Major League pitcher, Gordon isn’t easily frustrated. Not even when working with 14, 15, 16 and 17-year-old boys.
“Sometimes you just have to remember that they’re kids, and with the talent they already have we expect so much out of them. And you have to understand that not all kids are the same; you have to be able to work within their means as well as work within their character and how they hold up to things. It’s important that we do that as coaches, and I think I’ve done a pretty decent job and I think my brothers have done a good job with our coaching staff,” Gordon said.
Gordon took the Florida Flash 14U team to the 2010 14U/15U Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational in Marietta last June, and that group won the championship with a 6-0 record. That same team, which featured Nicholas and many of the other top prospects on this year’s 16U team, also played in the 2010 14U PG BCS Finals in Fort Myers in July, and advanced to the playoffs.
“That’s usually what our kids are about,” Gordon said. “As long as the competition is on the field we’re going to go out there and play together and be able to compete with the best kids at this age group. I think we tend to have a pretty good time and I think we can hold our own.”
The Florida Flash will try to continue to hold their own down here this weekend and in many more PG tournaments to come.
“Our kids really enjoy these Perfect Game tournaments and anytime there is one close we definitely try to get there,” Gordon said.
“The good thing is, you have so many teams competing you want to make sure you bring the best talent you’ve got,” he continued, “and as long as you do that I think you’ve got a chance at having a pretty decent tournament. I think (Perfect Game does) a wonderful job of getting the kids into the right places to be seen. I think they do a wonderful job of getting everybody out to support these kids and what they’re trying to do.”