Comeback kid: Dogs' Jordan bounces back in senior season

Citadel shortstop Kyle Jordan is hitting a full 100 points higher than he did last season, batting .279 with five home runs and 36 runs batted in.

Before he recruited his son to play baseball for him at The Citadel, Bulldogs coach Fred Jordan sought advice from Florida State's Mike Martin and Sam Houston State's Mark Johnson, veteran coaches whose sons played for them.

"If he's playing good, he's gonna be your shortstop," they told Jordan. "If he's playing bad, he's gonna be your son."

Said Jordan with a laugh, "That pretty much has held true."

From that perspective, Citadel senior shortstop Kyle Jordan spent a lot of time as the coach's son last season, when he struggled to a career-worst .179 batting average and was benched for the first and only time in his college career.

But this season, Kyle Jordan is back to just being a shortstop. The former Stratford High School standout is

hitting a full 100 points higher than he did last season, batting .279 with five home runs and 36 RBIs and playing his usual solid defense for the Southern Conference regular season champion Bulldogs, who are the top seed in the SoCon Tournament starting Wednesday at Riley Park.

It was a remarkable turnaround for the 5-10, 185-pounder, who batted .272 as a freshman and slugged seven homers with 37 RBIs as a sophomore before his painful junior season.

"As a coach, I've been very impressed with what he's done this year," Fred Jordan said. "He gave up his summer, retooled his approach and his swing and has worked extremely hard, and it's paid benefits this year. Kyle's been one of the keys to our ballclub on offense, and defensively he's very good anyway."

According to Kyle Jordan, the adjustments have been as much mental as mechanical.

"Last year, I got so down at the beginning of the year that it was hard to catch up," he said after practice Monday. "I tried to do way more than I was capable of doing, and it just snowballed on me. This year I started slow, but going through what I did last year helped me a lot.

"I knew I just had to slow it down a little bit, hit the brakes and make some adjustments. I didn't do a lot with my swing, but I tried to slow down and relax a little more, and not try to do way too much."

The low point last year came when coach Jordan and assistant David Beckley decided Kyle needed to spend a few games on the bench, sliding second baseman Bryan Altman over to shortstop in midseason. Kyle, who had started 116 of 117 games in his first two seasons, didn't start 12 games and missed six entirely.

"It was not tough to do," Fred Jordan said. "We've done that before with some really good players. Sometimes guys need to step back and watch a game or two. In Kyle's case, we sat him down for a few games, and then Beck said, 'OK, let's go,' and he did pretty well after that."

Both Jordans agree that the all-in-the-family arrangement has probably been toughest for wife and mother Debbie Jordan.

"It's the hardest on his mom, especially when he's struggled," Fred said.

Through 19 years as The Citadel coach's wife, Debbie Jordan has heard plenty of fans yell unkind things about her husband.

"Listening to them yell at my husband, I've learned to do," Debbie said. "Listening to them yell at my son, that's not easy."

Kyle and Fred are good about not bringing baseball home with them, Debbie Jordan said. They confine baseball talk to the coach's office at McAlister Field House or to the garage at the Jordan house, which Debbie calls "a total man-cave." Away from the field, they spend a lot of time hunting and fishing.

"I think the last four years have given them each a different respect for each other," Debbie said. "It's not just Kyle respecting Freddie as his father, or Kyle as his son. Some of the decisions that have been made, the work ethic that goes into it, I think it's given them both a higher respect for each other, in a different way."

For all three Jordans, Kyle's comeback season has been rewarding.

"It's been a big year," Debbie said. "Graduation, playing pretty well, winning the regular season, and Kyle's been a part of it. It's great for him, because he always puts a lot of pressure on himself, being the coach's son."

Said Fred, "From a father's standpoint, it's been good to watch him grow. For him to receive a Citadel degree is very special, because he's a lot like his dad academically."

Kyle Jordan just hopes it doesn't end anytime soon.

"I hope we play a while longer," he said, "so I can worry about what comes after baseball later."