Lane Gordon isn’t quite sure what caused the shoulder injury that removed him from the mound for most of his senior baseball season at Northeast Lauderdale.
It could have been the result of years of wear and tear on his right shoulder, or maybe it was the first-quarter hit against Quitman during the Trojans’ next-to-last football game his senior year that jarred his arm just enough to allow an underlying issue to manifest itself.
Gordon, Northeast Lauderdale’s quarterback at the time, powered through two more quarters that Friday night in 2017 before begrudgingly letting the Trojan coaching staff know he couldn’t go any further.
Although Gordon proudly wore his No. 16 football jersey every fall, baseball fully possessed his heart. So he sat out of Northeast Lauderdale's final football game of the year with the hope that his shoulder would heal in enough time for baseball season.
But after four months, he accepted the inevitable.
"Supposedly, the injury was healed, but when I went out to throw a baseball, it just didn't feel right," Gordon said.
The injury dismantled Gordon’s plans of remaining a starting pitcher, a position that for years garnered him acclaim and offers to play at the next level, and two medical professionals told him it could jeopardize his chances to pitch competitively in college.
"It kind of put everything into perspective," Gordon said. "I've been playing baseball, like most people, since I was 4 years old, and it's kind of all I really cared about. I played football, but what I've been doing since I could walk is play baseball. What I looked forward to all my life was playing college baseball.”
Gordon shifted to second base to limit the length of his throws, and he didn't pitch more than six innings as a senior.
“I think he may have pitched during spring break and it kind of felt good, and then it went back downhill,” Northeast Lauderdale baseball coach Josh Snider recalled. “Towards the playoffs at the end of the season, he kind of got it going back, but it was definitely a setback for him.”
Southwest Mississippi Community College courted Gordon in high school and remained interested in his pitching abilities throughout the injury. Gordon reciprocated that interest with his commitment and headed to Summit determined to pitch again.
Gordon returned to the mound on April 28, 2018, and he appeared in six more games for Southwest Mississippi Community College last season. He finished the year with a 1-1 record and a 9.00 earned-run average.
This year, Gordon boasts a 3.13 earned-run average in 23 innings pitched. In 10 appearances, he’s accumulated 22 strikeouts and three wins against just five walks. On Thursday, he committed to Mississippi Valley State University, and one day later, he singled and scored the go-ahead run to lift the Bears to a 10-9 win against Coahoma Community College in extra innings.
“It’s just been a really good last two days to kind of get my commitment off my chest and know that I’ll be playing for the next couple years and extend my career,” Gordon said. “And to go out on the field and relax and help my team win a baseball game felt really good. I’m feeling great right now.”
Gordon’s at-bat against Coahoma was his first since his final year at Northeast Lauderdale. He also threw a team-high six innings, where he allowed just three hits. He struck out four and didn’t yield any runs. Gordon said his cell phone has been abuzz with notifications over the last two days
“My Twitter, my text messages, my phone calls were kind of blowing up a little bit,” he said. “A lot of people jokingly messing with me about being a pitcher only and getting a hit, and also congratulating me on committing and all of that.”
Gordon said his shoulder is now at 100 percent, and while he’s thankful to pitch again, he’s even more grateful to the Southwest Mississippi Community College coaching staff for remaining committed to him while he grappled with adversity.
“They could have easily said, ‘This kid is hurt. It’s risky. We could pull his scholarship and give it to someone else,’” Gordon said. “But they took a chance on me, and they stuck with me, and I can’t say how thankful I am that I got the opportunity to extend my career for these last couple of years and to get to the next level.”
Snider no longer shares the dugout with his former player, but to the Northeast Lauderdale coach, tenacity and drive are two words that still remain synonymous with Gordon. Although Gordon's senior baseball season as a Trojan was mired with injury, Snider knew it wasn’t a matter of if Gordon would excel once fully healed, it was just a matter of when.
“Lane’s always been a good ballplayer,” Snider said. “He’s always been a hard worker, and he’s the type of player who knows how to handle adversity. When he had that shoulder issue, he could have easily hung it up and just moved on with his life. But he wanted to play baseball, and watching him work and overcoming everything that he has, it’s no surprise he’s where he’s at today. Where he’s at now, he deserves every bit of it.”