Nolan Gorman’s second home run Monday night traveled an estimated 409 feet, soaring over the right field party deck at Modern Woodmen Park on the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa.
All anyone could do was sit back and watch it fly.
If a single hit can be a metaphor for the opening act of a baseball career, that would be the perfect one to describe the last few months for the First Rounder for the St. Louis Cardinals.
It took off like a rocket, it left nothing to chance, and it set a fanbase on fire.
The hype, though, is for real. (Even if the fantasies about his immediate MLB impact aren't.)
In 38 games with Johnson City, Gorman erupted with 11 home runs, 10 doubles, a triple and 28 runs batted in. In 12 games with the Peoria Chiefs, he’s hitting .245 with 5 walks, 22 strikeouts, 4 home runs, and counting.
The powerful 18 year old was facing high school pitching just months ago. Those guys, he explained, were content to pitch around the Under Armor All-American Home Run Derby champion. And while the competition level has changed exponentially for Gorman since then, his measured approach has not.
"My approach stayed the same," he said. "Still gotta stay the other way and just let your hands come in."
He speaks as calmly as he swings. Which may sound like an odd comparison, but if you watch him at the plate, he keeps things simple, steady. To hear him speak, he's no more unnerved by his radically swift ascension than he is by the dramatically improved "stuff" he's staring down each night.
After all, this was the plan.
"Anything that I do, I do it to complete it," he said after sharing that his dedication to baseball included late-night hitting sessions in the garage with his dad... at age seven. And while Dad was there to push when necessary, it was Nolan who saw the value in preparation, even then.
"When I was that young, for me to be able to do that, and kind of go out on my own and do what I know has to be done to get to where I want to be is pretty good," he said. Adding, "You've got to prepare for anything that you do in life."
Day in, day out, Gorman prepared, despite the chaos that accompanies Major League dreams, especially ahead of Draft Day.
"You have to just kind of stay in your corner," Gorman said, recalling the stress that threatened to dampen the thrill of that life-changing moment. "You have to have a good group of people in your corner to kind of go through that with you. I was lucky to have that, so that made it a little easier."
He'd heard the buzz and the chatter. But he'd accounted for that, too.
"The draft is so unexpected," he said. "You don’t know what’s going to happen, so you can’t go into it with any expectations. I knew that. People have told me that throughout the whole year, that you can’t go into it with any expectations. Something’s going to go wrong somewhere in the draft."
For the Cardinals, something went very, very right. Not often in a position to draft such a highly touted prep player, scouting director Randy Flores almost couldn't believe the good fortune that resulted in Gorman's availability at pick No. 19. And he was not alone.
"Gorman is, more than likely, the most raw-talented draft pick that the Cardinals have selected since Shelby Miller," our own Kyle Reis wrote recently. "Sometimes it's the sound of the ball off of the bat that tips your hand about a hitters potential. This is the case with Nolan Gorman."
Talent so raw and so young is nearly impossible to predict. It becomes measurably easier to count on, though, when partnered with the kind of determination and drive that turns those late night hitting sessions into calculated guidance sessions from a personal trainer with professional baseball experience. Leaving nothing to chance.
"I prepared for what pro ball was going to be like," is not something you expect to hear from a first-year player, much less from a teenager.
But Nolan Gorman isn't the kind of thing you can expect...
All anyone can do is sit back and watch him fly.