With so much taken from him early in his life, and the turmoil he endured as a result, Dee Gordon was always going to give back to those that needed help in some way, even if he wasn’t a professional athlete. That’s what he was taught and raised to believe.
But given his platform as a Major League Baseball player, the millions he’s earned and the opportunities to do something more than just play baseball, Gordon has taken the responsibility of helping those in need as a calling and a blessing while often avoiding the spotlight of taking credit for his efforts.
On Thursday, that tireless dedication was rewarded when he was named the 55th recipient of the Hutch Award.
“This award has an incredible history, and I’m grateful to be a part of its legacy,” Gordon said in a statement. “I believe it’s our duty as professional athletes to give back to the communities that support us. Recognition isn’t why I do it, but it is an honor when an organization like Fred Hutch recognizes the efforts.”
Later in a conference call, Gordon call added to that statement.
“For me, it is a responsibility,” he said. “I say it’s a more of a responsibility because right now, we are in a global pandemic and people are still being selfish. People aren’t looking after their neighbors. I wasn’t raised that way. You have to look after each other and people aren’t doing it.”
From the news release announcing his selection:
“Gordon was chosen for his commitment to helping his community through various philanthropic efforts including the Flash of Hope program to help children and families affected by domestic violence. Gordon is deeply committed to this issue, as he lost his own mother to domestic violence when he was 6 years old.”
Gordon’s mother, DeVona, was shot and killed by her boyfriend, Lynford Schultz, in their apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida. Two days after striking Schultz in the head with a dumbbell to stop him from choking Devona, Gordon came home from school to see police cars in front of his apartment complex. A friend of his mother intercepted him as he exited the school bus and took him to a McDonald’s where she told him his mother had died. It was days later until he found out the circumstances.
No person could go through that situation and not be changed. His Flash of Hope program works to support children who have a lost a parent because of domestic violence. It partners with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, LifeWire, New Beginnings, API Chaya and DAWN, a nonprofit based in South King County, to host families throughout the season for a day at the ballpark. Participants receive game tickets, gift cards, meals, Flash of Hope T-shirts and the opportunity to watch batting practice on the field. Gordon also spends time with each Flash of Hope participant to share their personal experiences.
“As soon I started making over the (Major League) minimum, I started the Flash of Hope program,” he said. “It means a lot to me because people don’t understand having those kids see someone who went through the same things they are going through, and who has actually made it. We went through the same thing and they think, ‘Maybe I can be something too.’ Maybe it’s not in baseball, maybe it’s in another field, but it’s at least something.”
But his charity extends to other aspects of the local community and the world.
Gordon is active in supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Special Olympics USA, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Mariners Care programs such as On BASE, RBI (Reviving Baseball in Innercities) and the Mariners DREAM Team school assemblies.
“I grew up getting in trouble for fighting while trying to look out for others,” he said. “Now, I don’t have to fight as much anymore. I can use my blessing to help people and look out for them.”
Beyond the Puget Sound, he volunteers to help those in poverty, hunger relief and cancer patients. He’s teamed up with Food for the Hungry and the Striking Out Poverty campaign, which raise money for urgent needs in some of the most under served communities in the world. Food for the Hungry works to provide access to life-changing resources, including clean water, medical aid, food, equal educational opportunities for girls and boys and vocational training and empowerment, while Striking Out Poverty benefits impoverished people in the Dominican Republic, Syrian refugees in resettlement camps and districts in Rwanda, Africa.
Recently, Gordon has been supplying food to needy families every Saturday near his Orlando home, paying for free meals to anyone who comes to Jesse’s Rib Shack. It was a deal he worked out with owner Jamal Jackson.
“He a good friend of ours and we met a few years ago,” Gordon said. “When we have parties or family over, he’ll come cook for everybody. I wanted to make sure I could help them.”
In typical Gordon fashion, he never asks Jackson how many families are being fed or how much it all costs.
“I don’t ask much about that,” he said. “I ask him if he helped a lot of people. He’ll try to give me numbers. But I don’t care about the numbers. I ask, ‘Did everyone starve today?’ And he says, ‘No.’ And that’s good. That’s all we have to do.”
Gordon is the fifth player to wear a Mariners uniform to win the Hutch Award. Past honorees include 14 Hall of Fame players and former Mariners Raul Ibañez (2013), Jamie Moyer (2003), Omar Vizquel (1996) and John Olerud (1993).
He first heard about the award when his then-Marlins teammate Dustin McGowan was named the recipient in 2016.
The annual Hutch Award luncheon at T-Mobile Park will not take place this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Gordon will be honored in mid-May with a virtual event that will include other notable baseball names.
The Hutch Award was created in 1965 in honor of Fred “Hutch” Hutchinson, a standout Major League player and manager who was from Seattle. Hutch died of cancer in 1964, and inspired creation of the Seattle-based cancer research center that bears his name.