Loss of mother to domestic violence spurred Gordon to comfort others

Here was a Major League All-Star, the first player since Jackie Robinson in 1949 to lead the league in both hitting and stolen bases, and he wasn't significantly taller than the Clowers sisters -- Cornecia, 13, and Trinity, 12 -- of Miramar.

But it was when they sat down inside the dugout with the Miami Marlins' second baseman and began talking about their personal lives that they really felt a sudden bond that went much deeper than physical stature.

"He just told us about what happened to him and asked us what happened to us," Trinity said. "We could relate to it."

Could they ever.

Gordon's mother was shot and killed by her boyfriend when he was 6.

Five years ago, the sisters lost their mother in the same, violent manner.

"It means we're not different," Cornecia said.

Gordon, through his Flash of Hope program, is working with children in Miami-Dade County who have lost parents from domestic abuse, just as he lost his mother 20 years ago.

"I went through it, and when I went through it, I didn't have anybody," Gordon said. "Nobody could relate to me. So now I just want to relate to kids and give back my time."

In conjunction with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, which has its own program providing assistance to victims of domestic abuse, Gordon is trying to make sure local children who lost parents know they're not alone.

"I always wanted to do something for kids," said Gordon, who volunteered his services after the Los Angeles Dodgers traded him to the Marlins in December. "I just want to show them that the world isn't over for them, that they're going to be all right."

Gordon's memory of his mother's murder remains unfaded by time.

Growing up in St. Petersburg, he remembers his mother walking him to the bus stop the last time, and then returning home from school later in the day to find police cars and ambulances parked outside his apartment complex. Gordon sensed immediately something bad had happened, even at that young age.

"The neighborhood in St. Petersburg I grew up in was kind of rough," he said. "So you knew something bad happened, that somebody got robbed or killed."

What Gordon wouldn't learn until later was that his mother -- Devona Denise Strange -- was dead, shot to death by her boyfriend. Gordon was intercepted at the bus stop by his mother's co-workers and whisked off to a nearby McDonald's in an attempt to stall for time.

"So I remember going to McDonald's and I can tell you exactly what I got," he said. "I got an ice cream and a small fries."

Later, after relatives finally gathered the nerve, they broke the tragic news to the young boy.

Gordon eventually went to live with his father.

But he never forgot his mother. He wears her initials -- D.D.S. -- on his cleats and glove.

When Gordon told the Clowers sisters about his experience, they nodded.

"It was just like we were brothers and sisters, we knew each other," Cornecia said.

Ina Clowers, the girls' grandmother and legal guardian, said the meeting with Gordon has left a lasting impact.

"It was so amazing for them," said Ina Clowers, who joined her granddaughters when they visited with Gordon at Marlins Park. "He just told us, 'These girls are going to be somebody, and you keep encouraging them no matter what happens.' He was able to put it behind him and move on."

Gordon said he intends to expand the Flash of Hope program next season and talk to more children who dealt with the loss of a parent from domestic violence.

Gordon is already being recognized for his efforts. He is the Marlins' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which goes to a player who has made a positive contribution on and off the field through community involvement.

"We'll never forget it," Ina Clowers said. "We'll never forget him."

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.