ATLANTA - It was the great British author Aldous Huxley who once wrote that sons are born with a rebellious wish to be disillusioned by that which charmed their father, a philosophy that seemed reflected in the early athletic pursuit of Devaris Strange-Gordon.
"I kept telling this kid, 'Try the game, try the game, try the game,' " Phillies reliever Tom Gordon said. "This kid kept telling me, 'Absolutely not.' "
Which is what made the events of Thursday afternoon so memorable for the Gordon family.
Fewer than 4 years after Devaris finally gave up the basketball dream and immersed himself in the game that opened so many doors for his father, the Dodgers made the skinny 19-year-old shortstop the 127th overall selection in this year's amateur draft.
It was a development both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Devaris' mother, Devona Strange, died when he was 7 years old and Tom was pitching for the Kansas City Royals.
On a May afternoon in 1995, a gun went off while Devona was at home with her boyfriend, killing the 25-year-old. The boyfriend, Lynford Schultz, later pleaded no contest to a manslaughter charge and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Tom's mother helped him raise Devaris, who initially wanted no part of baseball. But after realizing he had little chance to play basketball after high school, the sport of his choice, Devaris gave it a try.
As a freshman at Lakeland, Fla.-based Southeastern University in 2007, he established himself as a promising shortstop, batting .378 with 44 RBI and 45 stolen bases. But he didn't play this season after transferring to Seminole Community College.
Instead, he spent time with the Phillies in spring training, hitting in the cage with his father while honing his skills for a potential pro career.
Tom Gordon said he has spent hours on the phone over the past 7 or 8 months, working his contacts in the game to vouch for his son and set up tryouts.
"I had heard that there was a really good chance he was going to be drafted, I had heard there was a really good chance he'd be in the top 10 [rounds]," Gordon said. "But to be totally honest with you guys, I wasn't absolutely sure. I knew his talent and where he'd come from, and with his character being tested what type of person he was. But that still doesn't get you drafted."
So last night, as he and his son ate dinner in the Phillies' hotel in Atlanta, they enjoyed the fruits of their collective labors.
Tom told reporters yesterday that his son had always wanted Devaris' mother to have a nice headstone at her grave in Avon Park, Fla. Tom said he and Devaris' grandmother were close to purchasing one 4 or 5 years ago, but he decided to wait with the hope that someday soon Devaris would be able to buy one himself.
"I said, 'You know what, mom? Let him do it,' " Gordon said. "I think it would mean more if he did it."
So Thursday night at the dinner table, father turned to son with a proposition.
"I said, 'Remember that [tombstone] you wanted to buy?' " Tom said. "He said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'I think you might have the money now to buy it.' He said, 'Yeah, I think you're right. That's the first thing I'm going to do.' "
It sounds as if there is a decent chance Jayson Werth could be back with the team tonight after missing the past couple of weeks with a strained oblique. The Phillies would like to have his righthanded bat in the lineup tonight against Braves lefty Jo Jo Reyes. When the Phillies faced Reyes on May 13, Werth went 3-for-4 with four RBI.
He went 1-for-3 in a rehab appearance with Class A Clearwater Thursday night, played again last night, and is eligible to return from the disabled list today.
"Werth's been feeling pretty good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's really happy with where he's at. He's been expressing that to me, and our trainer says he is doing fine. If he has a good game tonight, we'll see where he's at. We could always fly him in here [today] sometime."
Draft Day II
The second day of the draft had some local flavor, as the Phillies picked a former Germantown Academy star and the son of former Phillies pitching coach Galen Cisco. The Phillies also chose Ryan Weber, a righthander out of Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic High School who has signed with the University of Florida.
Lefthander Sean Grieve, who starred at Germantown Academy in 2004 and pitched for William & Mary as a reliever this past year, was selected in the 21st round. He was the Daily News player of the year as a senior at GA. University of South Carolina righthander Michael Cisco, whose father was the Phillies' pitching coach from 1997-2000 under Terry Francona, went 1,096th overall.
Ninth-round pick Cody Overbeck, a third baseman who hit .356 with 17 home runs for Mississippi this season, is an intriguing selection who has been compared to Baltimore first baseman Kevin Millar.
San Diego took Villanova shortstop Derek Shunk with the 525th overall pick. St. Louis took Rowan lefthander Ryan Kulik 245th, the first Division III player selected. Pittsburgh took Shawnee pitcher Quentin Miller at 594. *