MO2 profile: Catching up with Dee Strange-Gordon
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
WEST PALM BEACH — Dee Strange-Gordon is back in the big leagues. Neither his passion for the game, nor his friendly smile had ever left.
A non-roster invitee with the Washington Nationals, Gordon on Thursday officially made the team. The speedster, now 33, is on a big league roster for the first time since 2020. Washington opens against the New York Mets today.
A former All-Star, Gold Glove winner, National League batting champion with the Miami Marlins in 2015, Gordon remains a fan favorite in South Florida.
ManOn2nd caught up with him on Sunday at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. We talked about his days with the Marlins, his emotional home run the day after Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident, and what he’s doing today.
I reminded Dee that his smile is still as big as ever.
“Always,” Strange-Gordon responded.
With the Marlins from 2015-17, Strange-Gordon was an All-Star caliber second baseman. Now, his role is whatever is needed. So, he’s playing center field, and left field, and can fill in all over the infield as a utility player.
Strange-Gordon is on his fourth different big league club. No matter where he’s been, he takes nothing for granted.
“Got to prove it, because I’m the smallest person,” he says. “Usually, when you’re the smallest person, when a new toy comes around, you’re the first one to get dropped. So, you have to have your stuff together, every day.”
Listed at 5-foot-11, 166-pounds, Strange-Gordon broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, and he was traded to the Marlins after the 2014 season.
With the Marlins, he was part of a special group of players, who all emerged about the same time. Giancarlo Stanton was already a middle of the lineup force, while Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto and others were launching their respective careers.
A brotherhood developed.
“Teammates,” Strange-Gordon said when asked about his Miami years. “I’ve had good teammates everywhere I’ve played. … In Miami, it showed me what it was like to have real friends and teammates. All of us were around the same age. We just kind of grew up together. It was a different vibe than what I was used to.”
The players took to Strange-Gordon as much as he did to them.
During the first days of Spring Training in 2015, Strange-Gordon was among the first players to arrive each day to the ballpark. Then he was making the transition to second base, so he would do early work at the position with then infield coach Perry Hill on the backfields of Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.
Strange-Gordon won the Gold Glove Award that year, the NL batting title and a Silver Slugger.
“I’ve got a good energy about myself,” he said. “I love people. I try to be the same guy every day, good or bad. But we’re all human, and we all get angry, and things happen, so. I loved that group of guys. We were so close together. We still talk and stuff like that.”
In assessing his game now compared to 2015, Strange-Gordon said he’s much more aware of the little things.
“The difference is, I know little nuances, like timing better,” he said. “Things like that.”
As a younger player, he relied more on his natural abilities, and blinding speed.
“I was just being an athlete, trying to survive,” he said. “Every team I’ve played on told me I couldn’t play. So, I was just trying to survive. My survival skills got me a batting title.”
Speed has always been his trademark. He swiped 58 bases in 2015 and 60 in 2017, and has 333 steals in his career.
But his most memorable moment with the Miami Marlins came via his power. The leadoff home run he hit off Bartolo Colon on Sept. 26, 2016, is legendary.
Fernandez was one of three people killed in the boating accident the day before.
In his honor, all the Marlins wore No. 16 the next day against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Before the first pitch, Strange-Gordon alerted the Mets and the home plate umpire that he would take one pitch batting from the right side.
In another tribute, Strange-Gordon impersonated Fernandez’s batting stance perfectly for the first pitch. After that, he switched to his familiar left side, and delivered a home run for the ages. Tearfully, he circled the bases, and was embraced by his teammates in the dugout. There wasn’t a dry eye in the park that day.
“That was crazy,” he said. “People ask me about it all the time. I tell the same story. It wasn’t me. It had nothing to do with me. I just happened to be the guy hitting. … I just wanted to pay homage to a great person, not just a baseball player.”
We all remember the homer, but Strange-Gordon went 4-for-5 that day.
Mimicking batting stances is nothing new for Strange-Gordon.
“I’m like a batting stance guru,” he said. “I already knew how to do [Jose’s] stance. I know how to do everybody’s stance. I’d mess with him all the time about it.”
To this day, Strange-Gordon thinks often about Fernandez, as well as his family.
Now with the Nationals, Strange-Gordon has a fresh start, with a new group of teammates.
“It’s been a good situation,” he said. “These guys have let me by myself. You know how that goes.”
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