TORONTO, Canada, 3 August - He gets nervous just watching Quintin Berry play.
Kevin Jordan keeps a watchful eye over the Detroit Tigers outfielder, even though he doesn’t get all of the Tigers games in Florida where he is currently coaching the Gulf Coast League Phillies.
The proud pseudo-papa mulls over every at-bat of his former player, examines his approach, inspects each swing, and always has encouraging words for him.
Berry is one of Jordan’s most prized pupils. The Brisbane Bandits manager considers the 27-year-old to be like a second son, and he is one of the only players that Jordan gets butterflies for while watching him play the game.
The 2006 fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies considers Jordan to be a part of his family as well. Berry is incredibly grateful for the continued support that his one-time hitting coach has given him since they first met on Philadelphia’s farm.
“It’s almost like he’s a big brother,” the Tigers rookie said. “He was awesome for me, him and his family. I love the guy. He’s one of the best guys I know.”
Jordan is always willing to talk shop, sharing wisdom and experience from his seven-year tenure in the big leagues. But it’s never been just about the baseball for the former Phillies infielder. His players can come to him with any question at any time, something Berry is very thankful for.
“I can come to him for anything,” he said. “[Whether] it be going through hard things on the field and being able to just hang out with him; go to his hotel room and just sit down and have conversations with him, like two equals. He always treated you like you’re an equal.”
The San Francisco native has made such an impact on Berry that he is thinking about heading down under just to get a chance to play for Jordan once again.
“[He was] probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Berry said. “I still keep in contact with him today. Everybody I know; everybody that’s ever played for him loves him. Me and a friend of mine were actually talking about possibly going to Australia this off-season to play for him just because we heard he’s managing over there.
“I’d love to play for him again. He’s just one of the best guys I know, baseball-wise and just as somebody to lean on. He’s always been there for me.”
Brisbane’s skipper tries to be there for each one of his players. He makes an attempt to follow everyone he’s ever had the pleasure of coaching, though that must be an exceptionally time-consuming task.
“I check on all of my guys; pretty much most of the guys that I’ve had since I’ve been coaching, whether they’re in independent ball or in Triple-A or in the big leagues,” Jordan said earlier this season. “I keep an eye on them; because I want them all to be successful...I didn’t get into coaching just because I love baseball. I wanted to be a mentor as well for guys and I wanted to give back.
“I had coaches that really helped me, the guys that I met as a player moving up and when I was up in the big leagues. What I learned from them and the relationships that I had with them, it wasn’t just about learning how to hit a breaking ball and all that. That was secondary.”
One of the men who set the coaching bar for Jordan is Brian Butterfield, third base coach of the Toronto Blue Jays. The two met when Jordan was a Yankees farmhand. Butterfield’s approach to his players was something that Jordan strives to achieve, hoping to make a similar impact.
“For me, it was more [about] getting a pat on the back when things weren’t going well; being told how good you were on days when you know you weren’t that good,” the Brisbane resident said. “Butter was one of my favourite coaches because he always told me how good I was. I don’t know if I was as good as he said, but he always told me how good I was, even in A ball.”
When Jordan finally made it to the big leagues, he ran into Butterfield again on a road trip in Houston. The long-time Blue Jays coach was scouting for the not-yet-formed Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Phillie was impressed at how interested Butterfield was in how he was doing.
“I still remember seeing him in Houston and he was like, ‘I’m so happy you made it,’” Jordan said. “And I was like, ‘Damn, Butter.’ I love Butter because he was one of the first guys I met when I signed in 1990 with the Yankees. I just remember he was probably one of my most positive coaches ever, and that’s at any level.
“It was every day and it wasn’t just me; he did it with everyone. It was constant and just with little things, like taking grounders. You took them good and hard for like 10 minutes and he would come over and say, ‘Man, way to work.’ I really liked that. ‘Man, you looked so good out there.’ And I might have missed like 15 balls but after he told me how good I was.
“You need that so much as a player to know that the work you’re doing is not, I don’t want to say going in vain, but that people are watching and they recognize that you are putting your best effort out there. It’s so important.”
Jordan’s coaching efforts have not gone unnoticed, both during his time on the Phillies farm and in the Australian Baseball League. It speaks volumes that his former players would even consider travelling the world just to play under him.
“I wanted to [go to Australia],” Berry said. “Me and his other former player Michael Taylor, we talked about it a little bit this season, about possibly going and playing, just because we’d love to go to Australia, and also to get the opportunity to play for him again.”