Back when Jordon Adell was eight years old, he took part in a traveling baseball program. As fate would have it, one of his teammates was also named Jordan -- with an 'A.' It caused enough confusion that Jordon -- with an 'O' -- decided to do something about it.
"We played the same position. We were the same type of hitter. We even looked alike," Adell said. "When the coach would say our name to come in from the field to hit, or to go out to our position, we'd do it together. So I told the other kid and everyone else that I was just going to go by 'Jo' and it's stuck with me ever since. Honestly, I don't really respond to anything else anymore."
Ten years later, "Jo" Adell has no such problem distinguishing himself from his peers. Being a first-round Draft pick and now the Angels top prospect quickly took care of that. But that doesn't mean the 18-year-old is done trying to separate himself as he embarks on his career as a professional baseball player. It's a path he's excited to take, no matter how tough the decision was for him and his family to make.
Adell places an extreme value on education, which has played an integral part in his life and weighed heavily on his decision whether to turn pro. His mother, Nicole, is a principal at Newburg Middle School in Louisville, Kentucky, and both she and his father, Scott, were always firm on what mattered most growing up. Adell had committed to attend the University of Louisville prior to being drafted 10th overall by the Angels in June. He became the first Louisville high school player selected in the first round since the Reds took Jeremy Sowers with the 20th pick in 2001.
"The tough part for me was giving up an education and trusting what I was getting into since it's unknown," Adell said. "My parents are both college graduates, my mom is a principal and my sister [Jessica] attends Louisville [where she plays softball and runs track]. It was a big step for me since going to college is a family tradition and something we've talked about since I was young.
"But I love to play baseball and the reality is I wanted to chase my dreams. So that's what I'm doing. It was tough when it came down to it, but I'm glad I made this choice and now I get to go to work doing what I love."
Assigned to the Angels' Rookie-level Arizona League squad, Adell hit .288/.351/.542 with 16 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and five stolen bases in 31 games. He was sent to Orem in the Pioneer League on Aug. 17 and has gone 4-for-18 with a double, triple and five runs scored in his first four contests with the Owlz. Adell is the latest in a young corp of prospects the Angels hope bears fruit at the Major League level.
Video: Adell's RBI double for Orem
"It was a grind in Arizona. Just keeping the energy up for all the games after the work you need to put in is different and takes some getting used to," the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder said. "The big thing for me is keying in on every pitch during every game. As a hitter, you're not always going to get a pitch you can drive. The pitchers here are just too good. Even if they throw you a strike, it might not be your pitch. That's a lot different than in high school where you may not get what you're looking for but you can still do damage. If you don't get ahead and find your pitch early in the count at this level, you're not going to be able to do much.
"The bottom line is everybody here is good. They all have the stuff and the ability to be successful. So it's my job to figure out a way to separate myself and put myself on a different level. The grind is real, the games are longer and you need to go out there and show your stuff."
Adell doesn't need to look far for any advice about the tough task that awaits him. His father played football at North Carolina State University and was a 12th-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1992. A back injury cut short his pro career before he ever played a snap in an NFL game, but he constantly reminded his son of one thing as it pertained to sports.
"My dad's mind-set that he always shared with me was whatever you want to do, focus on it and buy in," the younger Adell said. "He taught me at a young age that I should do what I wanted to do and not take part in sports or other things for the wrong reasons. You have to live with the decisions you make in life, and that's the way I go about my business. I knew I wanted to be a baseball player, but I could have played basketball or football, too. I chose baseball because that's what I love and I was good at it.
"It was probably around 14 or 15 [years old] where I started recognizing that I was a little bit different [from other players]. That's when everything started to come together. I had the tools, as people say, but it really started to click for me at that point."
Jo Adell joined Orem last week from the Arizona League and has gone 4-for-18 with a double, triple and five runs scored in his first four contests. (Ari Davis/Orem Owlz)
Named the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year after hitting .562 with 25 homers, 61 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 35 games for Ballard High School in Louisville, Adell doesn't put any extra pressure on himself. This despite his standing as a top Draft pick and comments from Angels scouting director Matt Swanson, who told the Los Angeles Times in June that the outfielder gives the organization "a player to build around long-term."
"I appreciate that, but I just want to go out there and play," he said. "I try and lead by example on the field and not really point fingers or anything. I want to make the right choice, and if others want to follow me in that sense, then great. My mom is a middle school principal and her dedication and work ethic is something I admire. The effort she puts toward her work and to the kids is something that I feel translates to baseball very easily.
"I think the Angels are looking for guys who are leaders and can show people how to play and go about things the right way. Hopefully I can do that."
The Angels hope so, too, no matter what name he goes by.