At the Chesterfield Mall in suburban St. Louis, they've got everything from fashion (Dillard's) to sustenance (Orange Julius) and every kind of Mickey Mouse outfit in between (the Disney Store). Heck, Brian Jordan even found the key to stardom there, as he strolled twixt the Sunglass Hut and the Gap Kids.
Last September, while Jordan was nursing a bad back and a broken left wrist, he ran into track and field guru Bobby Kersee, the husband and coach of Olympic great Jackie Joyner-Kersee, at the shopping center. The two had met a few weeks before at a St. Louis Blues game, but when Kersee had talked about how he had the cure for what ailed Jordan, the Cardinals outfielder had tuned him out. "After hearing everybody giving me miracle workers and doctors to go see, I kind of blew him off," says Jordan. At the mall, though, Kersee was more adamant. "I jumped all over him," Kersee says. "I said, 'We need to get together. You're about 15 pounds overweight. You're one of the best athletes in sports. It's your career.' "
Those last three words got to Jordan, who agreed to spend the majority of his off-season training under Kersee in Orlando, along with Joyner-Kersee and Olympic sprint champion Gail Devers. Jordan was put on a grueling regimen of walking, running, stretching and weight work, going five days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., breaking only for lunch. Since the beginning of baseball season, Jordan has talked to Kersee every day and usually sees him daily when the Cards are in St. Louis.
The work has paid off. Hitting behind Mark McGwire, a healthy Jordan is having a career season, leading the league in batting (.350 through Sunday) while also hitting for power (14 homers and 49 RBIs). All this after a season in which he hit .234 and missed 115 games due to injury. "I'm in the best shape of my life," Jordan says. "I'm feeling good and letting my talent take over."
The impact of Jordan's newfound fitness could reach beyond the diamond. Jordan gave up a pro football career in 1991 after three seasons as a safety for the Atlanta Falcons to devote himself to baseball, but now he is pondering a return to the gridiron. "I've increased my speed and my endurance, and I feel great," he says. "I didn't feel this good when I played football. I ran a 4.6 40 when I played football; now I'm at 4.4 to 4.5."
Jordan will become a free agent after the season. He is giving strong consideration to then putting on the pads for the last 10 games of the NFL season (he has drawn interest already from the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Diego Chargers) before returning to the diamond full time.
That a 31-year-old man who has battled injuries nearly every season of his career would risk his baseball future to play half a season in a sport he hasn't played competitively in seven years might sound self-indulgent, or even silly, but Jordan has never been able to shake his love of football. "I miss the camaraderie, I miss the aggressive attitude," he says. These days the only thing he rams into is the occasional outfield wall, and he longs to take a shot at a moving object. "I miss the contact," he says, smacking his hands together and grinning from ear to ear.
The New Dodger Way
Earlier this year, after Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch purchased the Dodgers for more than $300 million, leading many baseball insiders to bemoan the further corporatization of baseball, Los Angeles general manager Fred Claire and manager Bill Russell both seemed almost naive about the deal's implications. "The players won't see any difference under Fox," said Claire, who signed a three-year contract in August '97. "The baseball operations are pretty much the same as they always have been."
"They want to keep the family tradition going and everything the Dodgers stand for," added Russell. "I don't see big changes, like everyone expects, right away."