A Hershiser Off the Old Block

The USC Trojans defeated the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton 5-4 in 11 innings recently. A freshman, pitching in relief, earned the win with 1.1 no-hit innings as the Trojans snapped a five-game losing streak. If you thought the kid pitcher who got the win looked familiar -- you would have been right. It was Jordan Hershiser, a 6-8, 230-pound righthander, who won his first game of the season.

Those of you who are not college baseball fans, it is proper to point out the quality of the University of California baseball program. This isn't your average neighborhood community college. USC is one of only a handful of coveted baseball programs in which fathers dream about enrolling their child.

It has been a powerhouse in college baseball and since 1948 has 12 NCAA baseball titles, more than any other school. Arizona State is second with five NCAA crowns. Eleven of the dozen National Titles came about with Hall of Fame coach and former Dodger Rod Dedeaux as manager.

It coaching staff is every bit as glossy; Former Dodger Chad Kreuter is now the coach and former major league pitching coach Tom House handles the USC pitchers.

Jordan, s business major, earned all-conference honors in his junior and senior seasons at St. Mark's School in Dallas, Texas and in his senior season, he batted .387 with five home runs and 30 RBI while going 6-2 on the mound in 50 innings with a 2.24 ERA and 70 strikeouts. He was also an all-conference basketball player.

It appears the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree.

We're not talking about pitching similarities. That's obvious to all Dodger aficionados but it goes further than that.

Orel Hershiser still holds the top Los Angeles single-season batting average (.356), and led the Dodgers staff in hitting five of his eight full seasons. He also played defense and left wing for the Philadelphia Flyers Junior A hockey team and is a near scratch golfer.

Jordan's parents are Orel and Jamie and you all know his father was a three-time All-Star in the major leagues and won the Cy Young Award for the 1988 World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, during which he was the MLV, after finishing the season with a record 59.2 scoreless innings. Prophetically, Jordan was born during the streak.

"Living in Southern California it will come up more often than not," Jordan told Heather Gripp of the Los Angeles Daily News. "Whenever I go to pay for something, people see the name and ask. I'm at the mall and it comes up. It's something that's normal to me now. I don't view it as a burden."

Jordan, 19, recalled for Gripp going to USC football games and the Tournament of Roses Parade when the family lived in Los Angeles, but since he left Los Angeles when he was seven, most of his early baseball memories aren't until Orel was playing with the Cleveland Indians. The younger Hershiser became a regular in the clubhouse, mingling with players and later serving as a bat boy for the Giants and Mets.

As you might suspect, Orel's not a stage father-type.

"The kids had enough pressure on them being sons of a major leaguer," Orel said. "To hear stories of the Bulldog and have them think they have to live up to that, that's not fair. So it's not something I ever really sat down and talked about. He probably hears that more when fans come up to me and talk about it than he does at the dinner table."

But Orel's long shadow Jordan, effected both his sons. Jordy opted not to play baseball during seventh and eighth grades and instead focused on basketball. His brother Quinton gave up baseball after youth leagues and is no longer involved in sports.

Jordan said. "Everyone expected you to be as good as him. And even if you did well, it seemed I was a disappointment. But I've gotten over that."

But he's over that now, speaks a couple times a week with his father by phone -- and what better source of pitching knowledge could their be than Orel Hershiser himself.

When Jordan arrived at USC he expected to redshirt for a season. However, a successful fall earned Jordan a spot in the Trojans' bullpen. And there is a plan to give him some mid-week starts in his future.

"He busted his hump and worked very hard in fall ball to the point where now he's in the mix," House said. "He's a year ahead of schedule."

According to House, Hershiser has pro potential but he's very young and traditionally, tall pitchers take longer to get their mechanics into a proper groove.

"I've always wanted to play baseball" he told Gripp. "I don't think I realized the work required to get to the next level until I got here ... I didn't realize how much really goes into it and how hard you have to work to be as good as you want. I think it's been good for me. The whole experience has been great."

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