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Glove Affair

There's nothing flashy about the Gordons, whose devotion to the game eclipses their sizeable talents.

April 13, 1999|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — Thanks to an old comic strip, everybody with the surname Gordon seems to get saddled with the same nickname.

But tempting as it might be, hold the "Flash" when addressing the baseball-playing Gordon family of Simi Valley.

It doesn't fit.

There's nothing flashy about Buddy Gordon bouncing around the minor leagues for eight years, opening a retail store with his wife and raising three sons and a daughter with an even hand.

There's nothing flashy about Joe Gordon attending four colleges, shuffling between independent minor league teams summer after summer, then returning home to coach and teach math at his high school alma mater.

There's nothing flashy about Zach Gordon redshirting at a Division I school, bouncing back to the local junior college, moving in with mom and dad and converting from third base to shortstop because the team has a hole to fill.

And there's nothing flashy about Buddy and his sons, who also include 15-year-old Casey, seeking out obscure fields in Simi Valley every Sunday morning to hit, field and throw.

"Persistent as hell, that seems to be my kids' best quality," Buddy said.

Power runs a close second. Although the Gordons are average-sized, they hit home runs in flash floods, unleashing torrents of towering drives that demolish records.

Zach, a 6-foot, 180-pound Moorpark College sophomore, has 15 homers in 29 games this season, seven more than the school record he tied a year ago. He is being recruited by several Division I schools and scouts say he probably will be drafted in June.

Zach's performance is uncannily similar to Joe's 1990 season. As a 5-11, 160-pound Simi Valley High second baseman, Joe smacked 15 homers, falling one short of the Southern Section record.

Pop had some pop as well. Buddy, who at 6-2 and 220 towers over his sons, was a power hitter for Pierce College, USC and a succession of minor league teams in the 1960s and '70s.

"I can't explain where the power comes from, but I can say we work on our swings quite a bit," Zach said.

Vicki Gordon has mementos of her sons' obsession, such as the shattered glass case and busted stereo cabinet in the living room.

Although Joe, 26, the first-year coach at Simi Valley, lives on his own, Zach and Casey still drive their mom crazy by belting rolled up socks all over the house.

"The kids swing endlessly," Buddy said. "They've always walked around the house with bats in their hands. They throw socks to each other, and I have to admit I never really discouraged it."

The Gordon boys didn't need to be told twice that they could play ball any time and anywhere.

Joe, 26, finally has grudgingly retired after spending the last four seasons playing for independent minor league teams with names like the Adirondack Lumberjacks, the Ohio Valley Redcoats, the Brandon Grey Owls and the Southern Mini-Stars.

He began searching far and wide for ballgames after graduating from high school. Joe didn't make UCLA as a walk-on, so he played for two years at Cal Lutheran and two more at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.

He wasn't a major league prospect and he knew it. He also knew that wasn't the point.

"I just really enjoyed it," he said. "I studied every coach I had and remembered the things I wanted to keep for myself when I started coaching."

For his sake, one of those qualities should be patience. Simi Valley, with an infield of non-seniors, is 4-6. Playing in the tough Marmonte League, the Pioneers might take a while before returning to the prominence they enjoyed in the 1980s and early '90s under Coach Mike Scyphers.

Casey Gordon is the shortstop on the freshman team.

"I plan on being here for a long time," Joe said. "I'd felt for a long time that I would come back to Simi Valley as the coach."

Zach took recruiting trips to Oregon State and New Orleans the last two weekends.

Pepperdine was Zach's first stop after he graduated from Royal High. (He didn't attend Simi Valley because his family moved.) He redshirted in 1996-97 as a walk-on at Pepperdine, which was too expensive for him to continue, so he transferred to Moorpark.

Last season, he batted .377 and played third base, his natural position. Moorpark Coach Ken Wagner asked him to move to shortstop this spring.

"Zach really settled our infield," Wagner said. "He's an excellent third baseman, but there was a need at shortstop. He makes all the routine plays, turns the double play well and is a great leader."

Changing positions didn't detract from Zach's offense. He is batting .378, leads the Western State Conference with 47 runs batted in and is a major reason Moorpark (19-10, 8-2) is tied for first in the WSC Northern Division.

Zach's power was evident early. Twice he hit two home runs in nonconference games and he had eight by the time WSC play began.

In the conference opener, his three-run home run beat Pierce, 4-3, and his two-run shot in the next game enabled the Raiders to edge Glendale by a run. He has seven homers and 22 RBIs in 10 conference games.

"Dads usually are nervous when their kids play, but I totally enjoy watching Zach," Buddy said. "The way he hustles and never gets down on himself, he is just fun to watch. Then I realize he's my boy and I feel 10-feet tall."

Buddy is more than a pal to his sons. He provides the sage advice that has kept them going.

"It's not about going to the major leagues and being a superstar, it's about enjoying yourself and getting the most out of your ability," Buddy said. "My sons have learned to take their lumps and come back five times harder."

And along the way, they've developed a pretty good home-run trot.

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