Father’s Day 2017

Today was a fantastic day. Sarah got us tickets to the IronPigs and I got to go home to Allentown with my family. The ‘Pigs won but that wasn’t the big story for me.

Zach's first baseball game @ironpigs! Thanks @sarahriccaboni for the great #FathersDay gift!

A post shared by Ian Riccaboni (@ianriccaboni) on

It is a struggle when you start out, when you first leave the nest. When I graduated from NYU, my parents let me move back in and do my Master’s Degree while commuting from their home in Lansdale. As I stayed up late to complete papers, my dad would get home from midnight, perhaps not fully understanding my degree path or the job I held at Penn that year and asked me when I’d be working.

“Get a job!” he’d joke.

If there was one thing I learned about my dad growing up, it was that he always worked. Worked hard. But in his 60 to 80 hour work weeks, commuting from Allentown to Lansdale, he would attend every baseball game, orchestra concert, or cross country race he could. His eyes may have been struggling to stay open sometimes, but I could never tell.

I was always told that my dad worked two or, often, three jobs when I was born to make sure we had what we needed. He was a workhorse while my mom stared to stay home and raise my brother and I. The combination gave us socioeconomic upward mobility that took us from our start in Laible’s Trailer Park off of Seidersville Road to a nice house a few blocks away, with all of the opportunities I could have asked for. More important than the material, my father, and mother, focused heavily on education with little things like ensuring I could spell the vocabulary words in my early grades and driving us over an hour on Saturday mornings to the Franklin Institute on literally no sleep following an overnight shift.

Some of the opportunities he provided were a pain in the butt for him and were his own detriment! My paper route from 1999 to 2002 was often my father waking me up and walking with me and the dogs as we slept-walked around Salisbury Township delivering The Morning Call. Or all the time he spent in the car dropping me off or picking me up at sports and band practices. But all of the energy he poured into our family, counterbalanced perfectly by my mom, was all for good. I learned life lessons when we’d drive home at night from the middle school dances and, thanks to him, I knew the Ziggy Stardust album inside and out by the time I was six.

Knowing all of that, it is really humbling to be a dad for Zach. How can I partner with Sarah to give him the most potential to be a great human being? What can we do, right now, to show him how much we love him and how can we help him discover love, compassion, and care for others? Humbling is just one word but it is the only word both small and big enough to encapsulate my first Father’s Day.

#TBT to 1999 and being a bat boy for the Allentown Ambassadors!

A post shared by Ian Riccaboni (@ianriccaboni) on

As we sat behind home plate today and watched the IronPigs, I looked out into the beautiful sun, and a lot of thoughts rushed to my head. I had been a bat boy for the Allentown Ambassadors, Allentown’s first attempt in 30 years to bring professional baseball back. It was at the worn-down Bicentennial Park in 1997 that my dad, on a whim based on a radio commercial we heard while driving to McDonald’s, took me to see my first pro baseball game in the Lehigh Valley. It was my dad who got us season tickets in 1998 and who encouraged me how to ask about becoming a bat boy for the team.

So, instead of framing what we were seeing as something the present, young men that have dedicated their entire lives to what we were witnessing trying to reach the next level of their profession on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I very much saw the past and the future instead. I saw my dad and Bicentennial Park. I also saw my family at a baseball game, eating ice cream and hot dogs as Spring turns into Summer. If this is what Summer is like from now on, I am hoping it will be endless.

Why You Need To Know Who Brian Gordon Is

As I type this, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs are up 3-0 at Charolette, with chance to extend their International League-best winning percentage to .631 and strengthen their odds at their first winning season and their first International League North Title. The Ryne Sandberg-led club is filled with capable MLB replacement-level position players like Pete Orr (covered here), John Mayberry Jr. (covered here), Ronnie Belliard, and Scott Podsednik, as well as MLB replacement-level pitching like Brian Bass and Penn State product Nate Bump. The Pigs find themselves with a trio of players who will likely see time with the Phils in some capacity in the next year or two: 6’8 reliever Mike Schwimer, 26 year old starting pitcher Drew Carpenter, and fan favorite Vance Worley. There are also some interesting projects like former top prospect Scott Mathieson and last year’s 30-year old rookie Erik Kratz, but no project player may be more interesting than tonight’s pitcher of record for Lehigh Valley, Brian Gordon.

Gordon was taken in the 1997 MLB draft in the 7th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of as an outfielder with plus power and a plus arm. He spent his first ten minor league seasons making a natural progression through the minor leagues, never skipping a level and never getting sent back down.

1997 18 Diamondbacks ARIZ Rk 219 27 54 18 4 4 46 8 3 9 62 .247 .272 .420
1998 19 South Bend MIDW A ARI 468 46 131 23 6 8 61 6 4 14 100 .280 .302 .406
1999 20 South Bend MIDW A ARI 184 21 39 9 3 0 17 8 3 9 35 .212 .251 .293
2000 21 High Desert CALL A+ ARI 476 98 148 26 13 12 66 19 14 47 107 .311 .371 .496
2001 22 Lancaster CALL A+ ARI 392 74 119 21 10 16 70 13 7 26 100 .304 .345 .531
2002 23 El Paso TL AA ARI 477 73 137 32 9 10 67 2 6 36 111 .287 .343 .455
2003 24 Tucson PCL AAA ARI 449 58 119 20 7 13 70 1 3 33 93 .265 .314 .428
2004 25 Salt Lake PCL AAA ANA 475 80 123 24 4 22 70 6 2 30 145 .259 .305 .465
2005 26 Salt Lake PCL AAA LAA 340 50 94 25 4 17 55 7 5 25 101 .276 .323 .524
2006 27 Round Rock PCL AAA HOU 303 48 73 21 3 16 59 1 3 28 110 .241 .310 .488

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2011.

Gordon showed power in each season he played, specifically in a standout year 21 season in A+ ball at High Desert hitting .311/.371/.496 with 26 doubles, 13 triples, and 12 home runs and a 32 doubles, 9 triples, and 10 home run performance with a .287/.343/.455 triple slash in his age 23 season in his only Double A stop in El Paso in 2002. His slugging percentage remained high in his remaining years as an outfielder, never falling below .428, his first year in Triple A and averaged 17 home runs a season in four full seasons as a Triple A outfielder.

Gordon took the mound after the 2006 season, with the help of then-Houston Astros’ special advisor Nolan Ryan. The Astros were his third franchise; he started the 2007 campaign on the hill for Double A Corpus Christi and finished the year with Triple A Oklahoma. In 2008, he was released shortly after Spring Training by the Astros but quickly picked up by the Rangers.

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2011.
2008 29 3 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA TEX,HOU 6 5 3.51 34 11 10 3 95.0 96 37 15 20 70 1.221 6.6 3.50
2008 29 Oklahoma PCL AAA TEX 4 5 4.56 18 11 1 0 71.0 85 36 14 15 51 1.408 6.5 3.40
2008 29 Corpus Christi TL AA HOU 0 0 4.50 1 0 0 0 2.0 2 1 1 1 1 1.500 4.5 1.00
2008 29 Frisco TL AA TEX 2 0 0.00 15 0 9 3 22.0 9 0 0 4 18 0.591 7.4 4.50

Gordon pitched 22 scoreless innings for Double A Frisco, averaging a little more than a half a base-runner per inning pitched and striking out 4.5 for every batter walked. The Rangers gave him an opportunity to start in Triple A, where his WHIP rose, but K/9 and K/BB remained strong. After 12 seasons in the minor leagues, the 29-year old saw his first action in the Major Leagues:

2008 29 TEX AL 0 0 2.25 3 0 0 0 0 0 4.0 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 16 214 1.000 9.0 0.0 0.0 2.3
1 Season 0 0 2.25 3 0 0 0 0 0 4.0 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 16 214 1.000 9.0 0.0 0.0 2.3
162 Game Avg. 0 0 2.25 68 0 0 0 0 0 91 91 23 23 0 0 0 23 0 0 0 363 214 1.000 9.0 0.0 0.0 2.3

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2011.

Fast-forward to 2011. Gordon is now a starting pitcher for Lehigh Valley after opening the season on the disabled list in Double A Reading. According to Michael LoRe of Lehigh Valley Live, Gordon was shifted into the starting rotation for the Pigs after three relief appearances to fill the hole that Worley left when he was called-up to Philadelphia on April 29. Gordon has not relinquished his spot. Steven Gross of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs Examiner beat relays the fact that Gordon became only the third Pig, joining Justin Lehr in 2008 and Nelson Figueroa in 2010, to win the International League Pitcher of the Week. With the completion of tonight’s game, a 3-0 victory over Charolette, Gordon earned his fifth win of the year, striking out 11 over 6 innings, giving up only 3 hits and one walk, and lowering his ERA to 0.74. Yes, 0.74.

Gordon will turn 33 on August 16 but has the benefit of logging only four and a half seasons as a pitcher on his his right arm. Gordon could be a terrific option in the event of an injury to a member of the Phillies starting rotation or bullpen, but there are a few obstacles in his way:

1.) Worley is likely the man to be called up should there be another injury to the starting rotation. Worley struggled in his last outing with the Phils but at 23, he is the youngest member of the Pigs’ starting rotation with the highest upside.

In Gordon’s favor: upper management may want to keep Worley in a regular rhythm and keep his arm stretched instead of shuttling him back and forth.

2.) If a righty member of the pen goes down, Carpenter has a shot be the next man called up. Carpenter made cameos in 2008, 2009, and 2010 for the Phils and is a former 2006 second round pick who received a sizable bonus. Carpenter made a successful transition this year in his age 26 season from starter to reliever, compiling a 2.10 ERA over 17 games with a 4.63 K/BB ratio. The other obstacles that Gordon would need to climb to claim a bullpen spot are righties Mathieson, who has made a 2011 cameo, and Schwimer, who at age 25, is in a make or break season and is excelling, posting a 1.78 ERA in Lehigh Valley in 20 games with 11.6 K/9 IP.

In Gordon’s favor: Carpenter and Mathieson have been inconsistent at best in the Majors while Scwhimer is a complete unknown in the Major Leagues.

I can’t be objective: I’m rooting for Brian Gordon to see Major League time with the Phillies in 2011. He’s far and away statistically their best starting pitcher and will continue to receive International League accolades. Time will tell if his strong performance will hold but his peripherals indicate that his improvement is for real. His K/BB in four years of Triple A ball  have increased in each of the last three seasons (2.55, 4.53, 6.00), his BB/9 IP have dipped in that time period (2.3, 2.2, 1.2), and his WHIP has dropped from 1.190 to 1.179 to .797 before tonight’s game. Gordon, no doubt, will regress and the last of those numbers in each of the data sets will lower, rise, and rise in that order but he has been one of the best stories and best pitchers in the International League this season and the Phillies would be silly not to give him a serious look.