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Showcase | Story | 6/13/2019

Now a '20, Blaze still burns

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Blaze Jordan (Perfect Game)

PHOENIX – The word didn't seem to fit, almost like it was printed in some ancient hieroglyphic text that had no relation to the name that preceded it. But there it was, in plain English staring out from the “Roster” tab on the Perfect Game National Showcase homepage.

Name: “Blaze Jordan”; Rank: “Follow”.

Yes, this is the same Blaze Jordan who for the last several years carried the No. 1 national prospect ranking for the class of 2021. The same kid from Southaven, Miss., who until recently everyone thought would be starting his junior year at national baseball power DeSoto Central High School in the fall.

Well, in not-so-breaking news, things change. Jordan, the top underclass prospect in the country, is no longer an underclassman after reclassifying as a 2020 a couple of weeks ago.

So here he is, thrust onto the scene at this week’s PG National Showcase at Chase Field a year earlier than expected, giving MLB scouting departments someone else from the prep ranks to consider during planning sessions for the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft.

The idea to have the 16½-year-old Jordan reclassify was first entertained by Tim Dulin, Jordan’s longtime coach and mentor with the Cordova, Tenn.-based Dulins Dodgers organization. Dulin approached Jordan’s parents, Chris and Jennifer, with the plan, and the three adults and Blaze all sat down and decided it was a move that would ultimately be in Blaze’s best interest.

“We thought about it and we prayed about it a lot,” Jordan told PG after he played in his final game at the PG National late Wednesday afternoon. “It was a long process and we put a lot of thought into it, and we all came together and just agreed that it was the best decision for me.”

It’s a decision that will undoubtably shake-up the class of 2020 prospects rankings when the latest version is updated and released sometime by the end of the month. That said, Jordan – a Mississippi State commit – looked confident and relaxed while performing brilliantly  as a “follow” at the National over the past two days and, as always, he did so with a wide smile on his face.

“This is really one of the best experiences that I’ve had, playing with and against the best in the country,” Jordan, an alumnus of the 2017 PG 14u Select Baseball Festival, said as he got ready to meet his parents and head out to his next big baseball adventure.

“You’re going to see all of these guys in the draft next year and most of them are going to major D-I schools so it’s pretty cool to be able to play with all these guys and compete against them.”

Chris and Jennifer Jordan – both are involved in the wholesale nutrition industry – looked just as relaxed as their son while they (and hundreds of scouts) watched him perform on the domed Chase Field’s new artificial turf surface. Temperatures have soared to as high as 115 degrees outside this week, but the National is playing out in air-conditioned comfort.

Blaze was one of the youngest players at this event but that’s something he’s used to, and it’s the reason his parents are comfortable with the decision for him to graduate from high school a year earlier than planned.

“We just thought it would be in his best interest to go ahead and reclassify, especially for high school baseball because he got pitched around a little bit last year,” Chris told PG. “He just figured by the time he was a senior he wouldn’t get much to really hit and it would be in his best interest to come out early. He can enter Mississippi State a year early and start his career just a step ahead.”

Blaze Jordan is listed at 6-foot-2, 218-pounds in the official PG National Showcase program and while those numbers aren’t much different from what they were last summer, he looks noticeably slimmer. The reason for that, he said, is that he transitioned some of his weight into more muscle, a result of making better and healthier choices with his diet.

He’s determined to improve his speed – he ran a 6.90-second 60 this week, an improvement on the 7.10-second clocking he turned-in at last year’s Jr. National Showcase – and he feels like this transition will help increase his speed and improve his athleticism. And, as evidenced during both BP and game-play, he hasn’t lost any of his strength.

Or, as one PG scout blog read: “Jordan put his huge power on display in BP< with loud shots pull-side with majestic carry and tons of strength. He’s one of the top talents in the class.”

Jordan was a member of the PG Black team roster at the National, joining more than two dozen other top 2020s as their one-time teammate. Many of those names are familiar and have resided in the upper tier of the 2020 overall national rankings for some time now, including No. 4 right-hander Jared Kelley, No. 7 infielder/right-hander Cayden Wallace, No. 9 right-hander/outfielder Nate Wohlgemuth and No. 10 shortstop/right-hander Masyn Winn.

As one of the youngest prospects at the event, Jordan knew he could learn a lot from each and every one of them just by watching their preparation, and by taking note of their day-to-day routines and the hard work they put in. And you can bet those other players are also watching the way Jordan goes about his business.

Tim Dulin has had some terrific players come through his program – Mookie Betts, Logan Forsythe, Austin Riley, Matt Cain and Zack Cozart, to name a  few – and recognized early on that it would be extremely beneficial to have Jordan play-up an age-group or two (or three, or four) early in his career.

He took the young Blaze to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., for the first time as a 13-year-old in 2016, and he’s returned each of the last two years, earning all-tournament recognition in 2017. That was Jordan’s break-out year, a summer and fall season in which he hit at least one home run at 17u, 16u, 15u and 14u events – including a prodigious bomb in Jupiter – as a 14-year-old.

“I started it with a couple of guys years ago and then I took Blaze (to Jupiter) at 13 years old,” Dulin told PG last November when asked about his decision to insert such a young player into what at the time was an otherwise veteran lineup. “And not because we needed a story (but because) it was the best thing to do for Blaze, just to get him in that arena.”

Jordan has reaped the benefits of playing with older guys throughout his career. From a young age he was able to learn how to adjust to high-velocity pitchers along with playing at a faster pace than what was played at his own age level.

“Playing up a lot has really helped me,” he said. “It gives me the confidence knowing that I’ll be able to hang in there with these guys and just be able to compete with them and will be able to do everything that I need to do to get better.

“I know that I’m able to compete with the older guys,” he added. “I want to better myself and just keep on getting better, so I felt like this was the best option for me.”

The relationship between the Jordans and Dulin couldn’t be any stronger. Jennifer noted that Dulin has made himself available to answer any questions that the family may have had, whether it was about the college recruiting process or about the benefits – or downside – of reclassifying.

“(Dulin) has been a great help to me throughout my whole baseball career so far,” Jordan said. “He’s helped me get through the tough times and showed me how to go about things, and just how to be a better player on and off the field.”

For his part, Dulin said it’s been a joy writing Blaze Jordan’s name down in his lineup card the last three years, with one more summer and fall to go.

“Blaze is such a great kid and a quiet leader, and as much of a superstar and a talent that he is, he never big-leagues his teammates or the opponent,” Dulin told PG in November. “That speaks volumes in the sense that our players, although they appreciate and look up to (Blaze), in some instances they treat him just like another guy and that’s the way he wants to be treated.”

The National Showcase is the 36th PG event Jordan has attended in the last three-plus years and he’s hauled a lot of hardware away from those appearances. He’s been named to 19 all-tournament teams – 18 with the Dodgers and one while playing with DeSoto Central at the 2019 PG High School Showdown in Hoover, Ala., in April.

He was the Most Valuable Player playing with the Dodgers at the 2017 14u PG World Series and played on Dodgers’ teams that won championships at the 2017 14u PGWS and 2018 15u PGWS. Additionally, he was a Top Prospect List performer at both the 2018 PG Junior National Showcase and the 2018 PG Underclass All-American Games.

“It’s been fun, it’s been a blast; we’ve enjoyed every event he’s gone to,” Jennifer Jordan said. “Just watching him play and watching him grow, it’s just been a lot of fun. Seeing him make new friends and then when he meets up with those friends at the different events the next year, it’s just a lot of fun.”

Jordan plans on playing with the Dodgers again this summer at all of the biggest PG WWBA events and is looking forward to what is now the summer before his senior year in high school instead of his junior year.

“I think this is a very important summer for me, probably the biggest one yet,” Jordan said. “But I’m not going to put a lot of pressure on myself because then I won’t play to the best of my abilities. So I’m just going to go out there and have fun and just enjoy it.”

“He’s got a pretty full schedule this summer, but we’re going to have fun and let him enjoy it. We’ll just be along, watching him play,” Jennifer said before getting a final word in on her son’s participation at the National Showcase:

“This has definitely been a good experience,” she said. “Perfect Game always does top-notch things; it’s a lot of fun, it’s very organized. And then for him to meet new friends and just hang out and see some really good pitching, it’s good for him.”

Blaze already has the scholarship to Mississippi State in his pocket but with the reclassification the family will now spend the next 11 months listening to all kinds of chatter involving the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft, not the 2021 version. It’s a good problem to have, if it is a problem at all.

“I guess you never really feel prepared,” Chris said. “It’s all in God’s hands and it’s just one step at a time we take. We tell him to put his work in and do what he’s supposed to do and continue to stay humble and if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. Whichever way God leads him is where it’s going to go.”

When Jordan was in San Diego last year performing at the Underclass All-America Games and had the opportunity to head over to Petco Park and watch the PG All-American Classic at the Padres’ Petco Park the night before the Games began.

“I’ve been watching that for quite a few years now,” Jordan said of the Classic. “I really hope I get to experience it because I think I’ll really enjoy it … and I’ll look forward to it if I do (get invited).”

Nothing is certain in this world in which we live, but Jordan receiving an invitation to this year’s Classic seems to be about as sure a bet as there is out there. And when he arrives in San Diego, it’s also certain that word “Follow” in the rankings category will have been replaced by a very low number.

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