CLIFF LEE returned to Philadelphia, famously choosing the Phillies over the Yankees.
Jim Thome and Brad Lidge played in other towns but both left their hearts in the City of Brotherly Love.
And now, Tom "Flash" Gordon would give his eye teeth if lightning struck and his son, Nick, was drafted by the Phillies with the seventh overall pick next week.
"I played with the Yankees. Phenomenal organization. Loved the organization. But it's different there than here," Gordon said this weekend. "I wasn't even healthy here half the time. It's just the way I was treated. The way I was talked to. I had a really good relationship with ownership, management. It made you feel like I was a part of a family."
Gordon, from Florida, played 21 seasons. He saw all of America, all of its beauty and its flaws. He finished second in rookie of the year voting as a starter in Kansas City, made his first All-Star team as a closer in Boston, came back from injury with Chicago's Cubs and in Houston, re-established himself with Chicago's White Sox, made All-Star teams as a setup man with the Yankees and Phillies and, finally, finished things at 41 in Phoenix.
His elder son, Dee, plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, an organization riddled with fading stars in a city rife with glitzy temptation.
He wants Nick to be a hard-nosed ballplayer in a close-knit town.
"I've played in those other cities. You weren't part of the family. It was just, 'Win the game, and let's get out of here,' " Gordon said. "It was still a great way, but it was totally different.
"That's why my boy would love it here."
It's one thing to decide for yourself where you want to work.
It's another thing to decide which men will care for your child for the next decade.
Nick Gordon is one of Flash's six children; all illegitimate, technically, but all recognized, and all loved. Dee was raised by Flash's mother but he now lives with Flash and three other children in Orlando. Dee, 26, and Nick, 18, are typical brothers.
"He used to follow me everywhere," said Dee, the Dodgers' second baseman and leadoff batter.
So, of course, Nick plays Dee's old position.
Nick is a 6-1, 170-pound high school senior shortstop with a pitcher's arm, leadoff speed and marginal power at Olympia High, where he hit .494 with five homers, 10 doubles, 27 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 27 games. He is expected to be among the top 10 players taken when the draft begins in 8 days. With a fastball that sits at 90 mph or better and a daddy who used to throw 95, Nick has a fallback position that enhances his value.
The Phillies have shown interest in him, and they are scheduled to work him out this week, according to Flash. Two other teams who select before them have requested workouts, too, but Flash isn't sure he will let Nick go.
Being drafted later might cost Nick money on the front side, but Flash hopes he lasts until No. 7.
"The Phillies have told me: If we draft Nicholas, don't be on television with tears in your eyes," Flash said.
Flash made no promises. In a business that often treats talent like livestock, Flash wants what he believes is best for Nick.
"I watched how they handled the kids in the minor leagues. How they put them in a position to be great players. Jimmy. Then Chase. Then Ryan comes along," Flash said.
The Phillies generally have been criticized for over-protecting young players, but they have been consistent in that approach. Jimmy Rollins followed a normal track, but both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard spent a little extra time marinating in the minors.
All three exploded when they got to the majors. All three have had superb careers. None has played anywhere but Philadelphia.
Flash wants that for Nick. He saw how Dee hit the majors and, after a fast start in 2011, sputtered for two seasons. A stint in the minors last year straightened Dee out. Going into last night, he led the majors with 30 steals and was batting .289.
When the Dodgers visited the Mets and Phillies last week, Flash flew up from Florida and watched Dee steal five bases and score three runs. The Dodgers won four of the five games in which Dee played, but they could use some bullpen help.
With a clear complexion and little body fat, Flash, at 46, looks like he's 6 weeks of CrossFit away from taking the mound again . . . but several surgeries have made him a spectator for life. With two sons with major-league talent, he loves his seat.
That Dee now is a certified major-leaguer is a testament to his bloodlines. Devoted to basketball and less influenced by Flash, who was not around Dee as much, Dee didn't play organized baseball until his senior year in high school, when he realized that nobody 5-10 and 160 pounds makes it in the NBA.
By contrast, Nick has had Flash around him since Day 1. Nick has spent his life in cleats.
"Nicholas played the game every single day he possibly could play it," Flash said.
He is a lefthanded hitter who thrives on the nuances of the game, especially at the plate.
"He recognizes pitches he can handle, real well," Flash said. "Most kids, 17 years old, they all want to pull. He doesn't try to pull unless it's an inside pitch he can handle. He tries to knock that shortstop down. He tries to drive in the run from second base. He tries to do the things that make a player a great player. He might never bat fourth, but he can bat everywhere else, and he has played every single position."
That's good news, since the Phillies drafted shortstop J.P. Crawford with their first-round pick last season.
But . . . every position?
"Yup," Flash said. "He's even played catcher."
Flash said that Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, who also lives near Orlando, helped coach one of Nick's teams, and he would see Larkin teaching Nick in the middle of games. Flash asked Nick about one conversation between him and Larkin; Nick's team led, with no outs and runners on first and third.
"He said Barry told him, 'First thing, figure out how important those runs are on base. Second thing, tell the pitcher, 'If you make them hit it to me, I'll make sure we get one out.' "
Then Flash said Nick turned to him and said, " 'The biggest thing I learned from you, Dad, is, never panic. Stay out of the big inning. Don't give up at-bats. Stay within yourself.' "
Sounds like a kid the Phillies could use.