Image credit: Blaze Jordan (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Watching a YouTube video of home run-hitting phenom Blaze Jordan is feast enough for the eyes. More than half a million pairs have watched Jordan’s 57 seconds of Internet gold, when he launched two 500-foot home runs at the age of 13 in an amateur home run derby.
Bryce Harper hit a 502-foot home run in that same derby—the Power Showcase—in 2009. But he was 17.
Jordan did it with baby fat on his waist.
Cameras traced the trajectory of balls he demolished over Greene’s Hill, the signature slope that serves as the batter’s eye at Globe Life Park, home of the Texas Rangers. One careened off the top of the Hyundai Club restaurant roof.
Even the broadcast’s audio paints a clear picture. After one particularly majestic swing, you can hear the pre-pubescent voice of a 12-year-old boy within earshot of the center field camera operator as he exclaims: “Holy Mother of God.”
A kid watching a major league player put on that kind of power display is one thing. But a kid watching another kid do it makes the feat seem all the more mythic.
That might be one way to explain how the now 16-year-old Blaze Jordan of Southaven, Miss., has a cult-like following despite playing in a grand total of one game on live television, the Perfect Game 14U Select Festival showcase in 2017.
He’s coming off his sophomore year of high school at DeSoto Central. But his fledging celebrity is growing even faster now that he will be eligible for the 2020 draft, where he is a projected first-round pick. Jordan announced in late May to Baseball America that he will reclassify and graduate early.
Jordan has more than 52,000 Instagram followers. A video profiling him on YouTube has 3.1 million views and counting. And the name Blaze Jordan—originally suggested by his mother, Jennifer, and endorsed by his father, Chris, as a great football name—doesn’t hurt his cause either.
“What’s a better baseball name than Blaze Jordan?” asked Linda Ruth Tosetti, who’s gotten to know him while handing out hardware named for her grandfather, Babe Ruth, at Power Showcase events. “He’s going to be a heck of a show. I really think he is. He’s going to be someone to watch. We’ll be watching him for sure.”
The hype has been building for five years. Jordan was 11 when he was invited to hit in his first Power Showcase. By 12, he was getting recognized two states away from home, standing in line at Universal Studios in Orlando with his family.
As Jennifer Jordan recalled, a man yelled out, “Hey, are you Blaze Jordan?” and asked him to take a picture with his son.
“Sometimes I can’t believe that it’s even real and even going on,” she said. “But I tell him it’s God’s gift. (My husband) Chris played football. I played softball. It wasn’t anything we taught him. The rest that’s come with it has just been a blessing, I don’t know any other way to describe it.”
Jennifer Jordan marveled the first time she noticed younger players from other teams coming to his field to chase after Jordan’s home run balls. Or for parents and players from other travel ball teams to pull out their cell phones to take video of his at-bats.
For his part, Jordan said: “I just try not to pay attention to it, and do what I can do.”
What Jordan’s been able to do and do well for most of his life is “play up,” taking on the challenge of playing against older kids. He was only 4 months old when he started tagging along to baseball games with his brother Parker, then aged 5. By the time Blaze was a toddler he was swinging a plastic bat and playing around the house with Parker.
“It was always some kind of ball flying in the living room,” Jennifer Jordan said.
Blaze started T-ball at age 3, which kids in Southaven could do if their birthdays were before Dec. 31 (his is Dec. 19.) He was ready for coach-pitch at age 4, but Southaven’s leagues didn’t allow it, so his parents took Blaze to a neighboring town that let him. By age 5, he was clearing fences with home runs.
“When he first started, you could tell he would hit the ball harder and farther than other kids,” said Parker Jordan, who played two years at Christian Brothers University, a Division II school in Memphis. “But he was always taller and bigger, so we always thought, ‘That’s what’s supposed to happen.’ Then when everybody started getting the same size and he kept hitting the ball far and hard, that’s when we realized, ‘Maybe it is something a little different.’”
Blaze was 4 when he started going to Parker’s hitting lessons with Memphis-based coach Tim Dulin. The former Orioles minor leaguer didn’t usually work with kids until they were 12.
“Blaze always brought his bat like, ‘Hint, hint—let me take some swings,’ ” said Dulin, who has coached him ever since. “I can remember putting some balls on the tee and him looking at me like, ‘I don’t need a tee.’ I said, ‘I’m trying to see if you can maintain balance throughout your swing.’ . . .
“As the lesson went on, I was sitting there thinking to myself, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I’d probably already been doing it for 15 years and I’d never seen anything like that, from someone that young. His bat speed was way above anybody 9 or 10 years old. A lot of kids just swing hard and fall down because you can’t repeat those swings.”
Through his Dulin Dodgers travel ball program, Dulin has coached major leaguers Mookie Betts, Zack Cozart, Logan Forsythe and Austin Riley. He puts Jordan in their company. He touts Jordan as more than just a home run hitter but a disciplined hitter with a good approach and a solid first baseman who has worked hard the past year to command third base, too.
And the power? Special.
“I’ve had guys who have had raw power, and I’ve had guys who have really quick wrists,” Dulin said. “Where Blaze is gifted in the fact that he has both raw power and the wrists . . .
“His lower half and his hands and his arms all work together, and he has tremendous hips and leg power. There’s not lot of wasted movement. I’ve tried to keep him relatively simple with his approach because he’s so gifted. He doesn’t have to try to generate too much.”
Dulin remembers watching wide-eyed when Jordan, at age 12, hit a ball over the street at a complex in Southaven and into another field. The fences were 250 feet. The ball traveled more like 380.
“I saw him hit a line drive to the left fielder one time, and he hit it so hard it hit the left fielder in the shin, in the stomach and in the head,” Dulin said. “It got on the kid so fast he didn’t know what hit him.”
If nothing else, participating in Power Showcases at major league parks gave Jordan a means to measure his home runs. Brian Domenico, president and CEO of Power Showcase, sends video clips and stadium blueprints to Greg Rybarczyk, creator of ESPN’s home run tracker, to analyze the distances. He said rarely are they off by more than two feet.
Domenico can vouch for the length on Jordan’s home runs in more ways than one. He’s the one on the mound feeding the pitching machine for Jordan’s at-bats before quickly disappearing behind an L-screen.
“When Blaze hits, it sounds like a car crash,” Domenico said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Jordan set distance records while winning his age group at the national Power Showcase at age 11 and 12. He cleared 500 feet for the first time on two homers (503 and 501) while finishing second at age 13.
When Jordan was 14, and in the eighth grade, Domenico asked him to compete in the high school division at the World Power Showcase at Marlins Park in Miami. Jordan won it, hitting home runs measuring 504 and 502 feet.
Jordan hit another two 500-plus foot home runs at the national Power Showcase the following year, this time nearly hitting the car on display on top of the Hyundai Restaurant.
“People from the Texas Rangers grounds crew and production staff told me they’ve never seen balls reach those distances and elusive locations,” Domenico said.
These days, the Power Showcases are mostly for fun for Jordan. The final summer before Jordan is draft-eligible is more about playing well and impressing scouts in the highest profile showcases across the country. They give him the chance to show his skills against better competition than he’ll face next spring in Mississippi high school ball.
“This summer is really big for me,” Jordan said. “I’m not going to put a lot of pressure on myself, because If I do I’m not going to perform like I can. In the back of my mind I’m like, ‘This is big.’ But I’m just going out there and have fun playing with my friends for one last summer and try to enjoy every last bit of it.”
Gone is the baby fat from those early YouTube videos. Jordan gave up drinking Coke more than a year ago. He also started lifting weights under the tutelage of his father; his parents own a nutrition store in Southaven. Dulin said Jordan has improved his speed and athleticism.
His young following is also taking all of that in, apparently. Domenico said there are a handful of kids ages 10 and 11 coming to the Power Showcase in November just to meet Jordan and see the transformation he’s made.
“All of these players are studying Blaze’s video and studying his nutrition and studying where he plays and how he handles himself,” Domenico said. “It’s more than just being a YouTube sensation for hitting a 500-foot home run. He’s become a role model.”
Both are good by Jordan.
“I enjoy getting noticed for home runs I hit,” he said. “I think over the years, people know what kind of player I am (too), how I hustle and play hard and try to play the game the right way.”