He made himself into a hitting star at Benjamin Russell High and Southern Union Community College, but this was Division I baseball.
Ohio Valley Conference. Four-year schools. Better pitchers and plenty of them.
Well, Gordon’s adjustment period lasted all of one game.
After going 0-for-3 in the season opener, Gordon got two hits in the next game. Then after another hitless contest, he turned into JSU’s most consistent hitter. He started a hit streak that has reached 10 games going into tonight’s home game against Alabama State. Nobody in the OVC has a longer streak. In addition, his .404 average ranks third in the league.
“He has a great work ethic and always wants to succeed,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “That breeds a lot of confidence. Going from junior college to Division I, it’s a jump. But with his work ethic and confidence, we thought he could be a good hitter.”
The funny thing is that he doesn’t much care about the streak. Or the batting average.
The only reason he knew the streak existed at all was because some friends mentioned it on Twitter. He knows how many games the streak has reached only because he was told Monday before practice.
“I don’t want to jinx myself,” Gordon said, smiling.
He added he tries not to look at statistics.
“My junior college coach told me if you were worried about stats, you won’t do as well,” said Gordon, a junior who plays right field.
He said he simply aims to get on base or whatever his team needs. In fact, in that first game when he didn’t get a hit, he still drew a couple of walks.
“If I’m 0-for-3, there’s a runner on third base, and we’re behind by a run in the bottom of the ninth, I want to hit a sac fly and score the run,” he said. “I’d rather do that then get a hit for the hitting streak and we don’t win the game.”
Case said Gordon hits so well partly because of his short, compact swing. Whether other teams pitch him inside, outside or a combination of both, the right-hander seems ready to deal with it.
“He doesn’t have a real long, loopy swing,” Case said. “With a pull hitter, if you’re pitching him away, away, away, he might have some trouble. But with Griff, he can hit to left field or right field. If you pitch him in, he’s quick enough to hit it. If you pitch him away, he can hit to the opposite field.”
For Gordon, he tries to put in plenty of work in practice. He spends plenty of time in the batting cage. In fact, Case said Gordon will try to get extra sessions in the cage to work on his hitting.
If someone else is in the cage, you might see Gordon hitting off a batting tee to refine his swing.
“I just try to focus on the little things, so when it’s gametime, there’s not as much pressure,” he said.
Case said that because of Gordon’s success as a hitter, it’s easy to miss the job he is doing in right field.
He has started all 13 of the Gamecocks’ games, and his fielding percentage is 1.000, which means he hasn’t committed an error all season. Only one other JSU player who has started at least nine games can make that claim: first baseman Tyler Gamble.
“In my first year of junior college, my defense wasn’t very good,” Gordon said. “My throws were not accurate. I just try to work on it every day and focus on getting to every ball.
“I’ve made better throws, and I think I’ve gotten better defensively.”
It’s early in the season, so there is plenty of time for Gordon to endure the type of slump that can hit even the best hitters.
He seems ready for it. He lists the Los Angeles Angels’ Josh Hamilton as his favorite player.
Hamilton has a quality that serves as an inspiration for Gordon and any other player who might have ups and downs.
“He has overcome a lot of adversity to become a great player,” Gordon said.
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at 256-236-3570. Follow on Twitter at @MarkSportsStar.