WINDERMERE, Florida – Two days before her mother's boyfriend could shoot and kill her, Dee Gordon heard her crying from the kitchen while her boyfriend was trying to choke her. Less than a month after his seventh birthday, Dee rushed out of his room armed with an eight-pound dumbbell.
He crushed the weight in his boyfriend's head. In an instant, blood flowed from his bald head. In doing so, the man swung his arms and the little Dee was sent flying.
"He pushed my skinny ass across the room," says Gordon, the RAM, his eyes wide open, his eyes wide open.
At seven o'clock, the world is mainly made up of a collection of prints. Everything does not make sense or does not add up. There is simply the moment in front of you, then the next and the next. You dip in the good and close your eyes until the bad gets softened.
Sometimes, however, the damage does not fade.
His mother and he had already escaped death in the delivery room. Dee was born two and a half months before the maturity of a girl who had not yet completed high school. When complications occurred during delivery at the medical center in Avon Park, Florida, she was transported by helicopter to a Tampa hospital. Before the doctors underwent emergency surgery, the situation was serious enough to ask Dee's grandmother if she wanted them to rescue her daughter or newborn baby.
He would learn that much later from his grandmother, Gwendolyn Caitt, whom he still calls Nana. Grandmothers can help fill in the blanks, and Gwendolyn has filled a lot for him, including his answer to the doctor's question at birth: If you can not save both, she told them, then s & # 39, please, save my daughter.
Gordon nods with understanding as he tells this story. From his adult point of view, he says his answer would have been the same. Both mother and son survived the birth …although that does not happen perfectly. While baseball fans see a baseball player who plays the game with joy and excitement, what they do not see is the small scar on the back of Gordon's head due to the complications of a caesarean section. saved the life of her and her mother.
He entered this world with only two and a half pounds, the only child of his mother, and the two were together every day for the first six years of his life. At the end of high school, Dee was there, in the arms of her Nana.
"Oh my God," said Caitt, 64, his maternal grandmother. "Oh my God, that was her baby, she loved him, he was the main thing in his life.
"The best six years of my life," says Gordon.
Photo courtesy of Gwendolyn Caitt
Two days before his mother's boyfriend could shoot him and kill him, the boyfriend was bleeding in the kitchen. Dee had landed across the room and her mother was screaming.
"Get out of my house!" DeVona Strange ordered Lynford Schultz, according to Dee. "Get out of my house!"
Lynford looked at Dee across the room.
"Do you want me to leave, little man?" He asked. "Do you?"
Lynford had just moved in the last year. It was the first time anyone lived with DeVona and Dee.
"It could have been our worst mistake," says Dee.
Lynford brought with him a Super Nintendo. And now, while Dee was examining the unresolved question, he thought of this beloved game.
No, he said No, I do not want you to leave.
"That's why, for a very long time, I thought it was my fault," said Gordon.
In many ways, Gordon is a survivor. We are sitting on the porch of the 10,000 square foot home that he bought here this season. He is newly engaged. His baseball career is flourishing, even after a suspension of 80 games for positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs in 2016 and a zero base percentage that went from .341 in 2017 to .288 in 2018 while He was trying to play a good part of the year. on a fractured toe.
"She had that beautiful smile, man," said Gordon softly. "I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world, she was so kind.
"Now that I'm an adult, I know everything she's done for me."
Whether directly or indirectly, domestic violence affects us a lot. According to a CDC national survey on sexual violence and partners, one in four women and one in seven men are victims of some form of serious domestic violence. "It's incredibly widespread," said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Assistance Line Against Domestic Violence. "If I was your colleague and I told you that there was a glass of water in four, we all jumped and started shouting:" Do not drink l & # 39; ! water & # 39;
"It's the dirty little secret of America."
Society notices very slowly. In the world of sport, some leagues are adopting policies that include sanctions and preventive education.
Kyusung Gong / Associated Press
As for punishments, last summer, the Toronto Blue Jays suspended Roberto Osuna without paying for violating MLB's policy on domestic violence. (Osuna was later traded to the Houston Astros.) Last fall, the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL eliminated half-offensive Kareem Hunt, after a video showed him pushing and hitting a woman. (Hunt has since been signed by the Browns.) This spring, Chicago Cubs player Addison Russell will continue his 40-game suspension related to domestic violence that began last year.
Experts like Ray-Jones and others believe that people frequently underestimate the complexity of this problem. Most often, when cases of domestic violence are reported, what is publicly discussed is physical violence. But the financial and emotional aspects of these relationships make it extremely difficult for a victim to leave an abusive partner, according to experts, especially when children are involved.
"Domestic violence is rooted in power and control," Ray-Jones said.
Even if it makes him sick every time a new story makes the headlines of the nation, Gordon refuses to comment on it because he says, "That would only open the floodgates. We are not all perfect. And if I opened up about someone else's problems, then I'm not better than him.
"And I have every right to talk about it, but it's not my place, it's not my way."
"I would like that whenever that happens, I can press a button and save the woman."
When he enters the scoring surface to face Osuna or Aroldis Chapman, who was the first disciplined player in 2016 under the MLB's Domestic Violence Policy, Gordon states that what he says is the only thing that's going on. they could do it does not pass to him in the spirit.
"I play baseball, man," he says. "I play baseball."
"Can I say something that will look really messed up? The world is so bad that a guy is going to get in trouble for a few days and people forget him and shoot him again for him .
"I already know it's going to happen and, let's be honest, this guy is probably going to do it again, a guy does it, who you are, if we're honest, and everyone's always going to buy his jersey and do it." an apology for him. "
Since implementing its policy on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in August 2015, the MLB has investigated cases involving 11 players. Nine were suspended or put on administrative leave.
Perhaps most importantly, the effort includes an educational program in which every major and minor league player is trained each year. Among the resources offered by the MLB is an anonymous phone line that players or victims can call (neither the league nor the players' union is aware of calls). Thus, players, players and their families, as well as club employees, can get treatment. if they feel that they need help and want it to remain confidential.
The MLB also has its own investigative group that travels when complaints are filed.
"Domestic violence investigations are not easy," said Dan Halem, Deputy Commissioner of Baseball Administration. "Often, partners do not cooperate, victims are often reluctant or afraid to speak, and third parties often do not want to be involved in these cases because they do not see any benefit for them. "Their job is to pursue a case, but not necessarily to help us, lawyers are involved with players and third parties, there is a lot to go."
Photo courtesy of Gwendolyn Caitt
Two days after crushing the dumbbell in the head of his mother's boyfriend to put an end to suffocation, Gordon was returning home by bus when he and his friends looked outside and saw a concussion in front of him. the door of his building.
It was not an unusual sight, given where they lived. "We were in the streets, let's say things like that," says Gordon.
Crime and drugs were part of their daily lives in this part of St. Petersburg, Florida. DeVona Strange worked for the American Automobile Association. Lynford Schultz? "I know it was not doing any good," Gordon said. "He was doing what he could, I suppose."
According to Florida prison arrest records, Schultz had been jailed several times for burglary, robbery and possession of cocaine.
Gordon spent his time practicing sports – mostly basketball, his first love ("No kids wanted to play baseball") – and going to school.
His father, Tom Gordon, played for eight clubs in his 21-year career in the majors. He and DeVona grew up together in Avon Park, and after high school Tom left to pursue his baseball career, and DeVona became a single mother.
On May 16, 1995, a colleague from DeVona at the AAA office met Dee while he was coming out of the school bus and told him that his mother had asked him to take her with her.
Gordon first protested, explaining that his mother had specifically trained him so that he would not go with anyone. He had his own key and had the habit of letting himself in the apartment after school while his mother was working.
"I would do my homework and do crafts until my mother gets home," he says. "But that day, the lady said:" No, no, no, you have to come with me. "
There was a McDonald's around the corner and, taking time, the woman bought Dee an ice cream cone and small fries.
The next thing he knew, cousins picked him up and took him home. He was still not sure what was going on, but he noticed a lot of red eyes. Then the phone rang and he heard a cousin exclaim: "No DeeDee! No DeeDee!"
Someone took him aside and told him, "Your mother died this morning."
"I watched it," recalls Gordon. "I did not cry, I just watched it, I do not remember anything else."
It's the next day, when his Nana took him back to Avon Park with her, Gordon remembers a yellow cab that parked Lynford in the back. Except…
"It was not a taxi, it was a police car, and Lynford was handcuffed to the back," Gwendolyn said. "I was talking to the policeman, Lynford had actually changed his life when he met my daughter. [drugs and crime] before DeVona, but he had found a job. The policeman told me, "He was having trouble all the time, but after meeting your daughter, we did not have any problems anymore."
Lynford tells Gwendolyn from the back seat of the police car: "I'm really sorry, I'm really sorry, it was an accident."
This was the first hint Gordon received about his mother's death.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images
Back from her old life at Avon Park, Dee sat quietly in the back seat of her Nana Lincoln Town Car with her Polo dog on her lap. His mother had just given him the dog a few weeks earlier, April 22, his seventh birthday.
It was a beautiful golden Labrador retriever. And by that time, Dee had no way of knowing that four months later, a neighbor would poison Polo and that he would also lose his dog.
Polo has just disappeared. There was a large lot between the houses with several trees, and one day Dee and friends were playing basketball and someone kicked the ball in frustration.
"I went to get him in the bushes and there was my dog," says Gordon. "I was like what, heck?" My mother bought me this dog. "
There is more blank space between this driving with Polo and the wake of DeVona. His next memory is that his mother's coffin was on a stand and while Gordon was standing in front, his body was up to his eyes.
"I guess I was wrong and I broke everyone's heart," he says. "I approached the casket and kissed her on the cheek, not knowing it would be the last time I saw her.
"I remember that my lips were cold against her, because I remembered before lying on her chest and I could hear her heartbeat." She was not as hot as she was l & # 39; 39; was ".
He remembers thinking back to Lynford this time: You want me to leave, little man? Guilt came back in waves.
The director of his former school in St. Petersburg went to the funeral with some friends from Dee.
"I cried so much that I fell asleep on the lap of the church director," he says. "I woke up at the burial site at the funeral."
Photo courtesy of Gwendolyn Caitt
Under the doorbell of his new home, a small sign says "Strange Gordon". His legal name remains Strange-Gordon. Over the years, he has stood in the name and memory of his mother.
Dee Gordon, in fact, is simply his stage name. For his relatives, he is nicknamed "Varis", an abbreviated version of Devaris. It was only at the beginning of the ball in 2008 that it became Dee Gordon, after an advertisement at a public address in Missoula, Montana, mutilated his first name, the presenting as "Devarnious Stran-jay Gor-DON" – or a French pronunciation of this type. It hurt him enough that he then asked, "Can you just call me Dee?"
St. Petersburg is a life. The apartment complex in which he lived with his mother was demolished. He did not start playing baseball seriously until he was a teenager and left the area after his father and uncles – Tom has three brothers – came back to life in Avon Park.
He is still listed only in categories 5 "11" and 170 pounds, but the All-Star twice that former Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, had once memorablely described as being " no bigger than half a minute ", did an admirable job in making room for himself in his father's game.
And now, on the eve of another spring training, Gordon is evaluating the kilometers traveled and the distance that remains to be traveled. His brother Nick, a field player in the Minnesota system, lives eight minutes away. The same goes for a sister. And his father's place is only 10 minutes away by car.
Jerseys and framed photos sit on the floor, always waiting to be hung. In a silver frame on a chest of drawers in his room, there is a picture of him and his mother at graduation, both resplendent in white. He looks around, still not believing in his surroundings. Where Gordon comes from, there was no travel ball or kicking cage in the yard. His mother, he says, never even saw him catch a baseball.
"Do you see my house?" said Gordon, who had signed a $ 50 million five-year contract with Miami in 2016 before the Marlins traded it to Seattle in December 2017. "When I was born, I weighed two and a half pounds My mother passed away was [seven]. Look at me. I am not the biggest guy in the world. I live here. I play in the big leagues.
"Damn, no, it's not normal, most parents have looked after their children so that they're like that, I'm not treated."
He often thinks about this horrible day … but not every day.
"When I'm upset with people, then it's like, Damn, I'd like her to be here so she can talk to himGordon said.
For the happiest six years of his life, he has relied on his family and friends to fill the void. His "village", he calls them. He made missionary journeys under the radar during each of the four previous winters, the latest for Africa in December. He talks to children who have been "victimized or have lost a parent because of domestic violence" as part of the Flash of Hope program that he created a few years ago. Quietly, he takes the children to games to chat privately with him, providing them with tickets, food stamps and a children's book to help understand and relieve pain.
He tells them, "It's not because you're a statistic that you have to be a statistic."
He gives the same lesson that he learned so fiercely. He has seen Lynford only once since the death of his mother, in a gym while his high school basketball team was playing in Tampa, shortly after Lynford's release after five years in prison for homicide involuntary.
It did not finish well. As soon as he spotted Lynford in the bleachers, Gordon asked one of his uncles to "get him out of here". He has not heard from him since and has no idea where he is.
But every January 8, the day of his birthday, he goes to the grave of his mother. He goes there several times a year, and Gwendolyn's voice is as bright as DeVona's smile on the pictures when she talks about her grandson.
"I miss my daughter, but she left me something worthwhile," says Caitt. "She has left me part of it, and I am very grateful for that."
The cemetery is not maintained as well as Gordon would prefer it. He makes his agent work "to make it a little cleaner, the people there do not cut the grass.
"I would like to be what I am now, she would be better taken care of."
But who he is now, in many ways, is what he was then. He is the son of DeVona Strange, and the old raspy metal plate, which once bore his grave, has never sat in his place. At 14 years old and barely 100 pounds, he promised his Nana to go to the NBA and not allow anyone to improve this stone because he had plans.
The NBA may not be the perfect place for those who do not do more than half a minute, but when Devaris Strange-Gordon was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 he kept his word.
"The first big purchase I made," he says, "was this tombstone."
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. To follow Scott on Twitter and talk to baseball.