Dee Gordon didn't mean to become a pro baseball player, but now he's happy that's the way things turned out.
Gordon, who was picked by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2008 Draft, was only interested in basketball until his senior year of high school. Encouraged by his father, former Major League pitcher Tom Gordon, Dee put on spikes and took off.
The shortstop has racked up several accolades since turning pro, hitting .331 with 18 stolen bases in his debut campaign at Rookie-level Ogden and taking home Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year honors after his first full season in 2009. He stole 53 bases in 73 attempts at Double-A last year and missed the Southern League All-Star Game because he also earned a spot on Team USA in the Futures Game. He cracked MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list heading into the 2011 season.
Gordon is known for getting to balls that seem destined for the outfield, but he's committed no small amount of errors -- 95 in 319 games. He believes his work this offseason -- in Puerto Rico, Los Angeles and Arizona -- has sealed up that hole in his overall game.
MiLB.com: You're heading into your second big league Spring Training. Were you able to learn anything from Rafael Furcal last year, and are you looking forward to more time with him or any other Dodgers?
Gordon: I'm just looking forward to getting over there [in big league camp] with those guys, and seeing what they're about. See about how they go about their business, preparing themselves for the season.
MiLB.com: What's been your favorite park to play in so far?
Gordon: I like [the Great Lakes Loons'] Dow Diamond in Midland, Mich. -- that and [the Dragons' Fifth Third Field] in Dayton, Ohio.
MiLB.com: When people talk about your defense, they always bring up two things -- your great range and the high number of errors you make. How do you respond to the criticism about the errors?
Gordon: You know, numbers don't lie. I have [made a lot of errors]. I've made them on tough plays, and I've made them on some plays where people say, "Hey, I've seen you make that play before." ... I promise it'll be a different scenario this year, though. I've been out here [in Arizona] working that out. I've been finishing and finalizing my defense, and I feel like I'm ready to go.
[The errors] were mainly me. It was me learning. If I get to a ball I should get that out, but just because you got to it -- just because you caught the ball -- doesn't mean you'll be able to get the out. Don't give him second on a bad throw. Let him stay on first and then get the double play instead. That's something I've been learning. I've been learning the game, the speed of the game, the timing, the different plays. I've been learning a lot out here, and I'm ready for a good 2011.
MiLB.com: Every interview, you must get asked one question about your dad. Here's one you might not have gotten before: Have you read the Stephen King book, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon? Do you anticipate a follow-up, The Girl Who Loved Dee Gordon?
Gordon: Yes, sir, [I've read it]. I don't anticipate a follow-up. I feel like that's a great book. It's better to let that just be part of my dad's legacy.
MiLB.com: You didn't play baseball competitively until your senior year of high school. How did that happen?
Gordon: My dad just said he wanted me to play, so I gave it a try. He said he saw there'd be a career in it for me, and it would be in my best interest to play. I started playing, hoping it would work out for me, and thank God it has.
It was all basketball for me before that. That was it for me since I was about 5 years old.
MiLB.com: What part of your game do you think needs the most improvement, and what can you do to grow in that area?
Coming into the season it was my defense, now it's just my all-around game. I feel like I've responded [to the need to improve] my defense this winter [in Arizona]. Now it's just stealing more bases, getting caught less times, getting on base, everything. I'm not going to have a ton of power, so it's hitting balls in those alleys, taking the extra bases, scoring runs for my team.
MiLB.com: How did the level of competition in Puerto Rico this winter compare to what you were up against in Double-A last year?
Gordon: It was about the same, maybe a little better. There were a lot of veteran guys, guys who've been in the big leagues. There were 10 or 15 Major League pitchers -- guys who pitched in the Major Leagues at some point in their careers.
Going into it, I heard [the competition] wasn't going to be that great, but it was much better than I expected.
MiLB.com: For two straight years, you have gone to Los Angeles' minicamp [at Dodger Stadium] in January. What was that like? Did your Chattanooga roommate [and L.A. native] Trayvon Robinson show you around town?
Gordon: Oh yeah, I had been going out to L.A. the last three years. He showed me around back in 2008, so now I'm getting quite accustomed to it. I'm getting to know my way around.
It's wonderful. Who doesn't love L.A.?
MiLB.com: Who's the toughest pitcher you've faced in pro ball?
Gordon: [MLB.com's No. 13 prospect] Michael Pineda, the pitcher with Seattle. He's pretty good. We had to face him this year a lot. He was one of the toughest I faced.
MiLB.com: What are your goals for the 2011 season?
Gordon: Just play the best baseball I can. Be healthy. Play as much as I can. Play as good as I can. I don't really set any numbers I try to hit -- you know when you've done a good job. Have fun out there. More than anything, it's that and to play with confidence.