LAKE CHARLES -- The boy who can soften two indestructible twins required a feeding tube throughout his first year of life, has one scar from an open heart surgery down his chest and another on his back from his C4 to L4 vertebrae — scoliosis’ toll on the 10-pound baby Lori Jordan carried to term with no complications.
Brock Jordan spent the first four months of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit, shriveling to four pounds from his birth weight. He has Down syndrome.
There’s another heart surgery coming, too. A leaking valve needs to be corrected, but doctors are comfortable waiting until later in the 15-year-old’s life.
Supporting LSU from head to toe, his brother Beau’s No. 24 on his right arm and Bryce’s No. 25 on the left, Brock’s the first person to answer the door on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. He’s eager to show his strength, racing upstairs so quickly that Lori reminds him to turn on the lights.
Dumbbells sit strewn about in this converted game room, where video game connoisseurs Beau and Bryce once spent many a night and early morning. An elliptical is perilously close to a wooden desk with an Apple computer. Brock’s only allowed 30 minutes up here, most of which is consumed with bicep curls.
“He’s tough, man,” Beau says. “He’s strong.”
Brock moves to his room, where hundreds of hats fill his closet, the comforter on his bed and his carpeted floor. Each birthday brings with it a request for a new one, Lori wondering what in the world her son could do with more.
“He has one of my hats,” says Alex Lange, Beau and Bryce’s roommate. “His bucket hat that he always wears when he’s at the house. Every time he’s over he finds it somewhere. I think he finds it.”
Soon Brock’s got his electronic WWE microphone. His iPad is full of John Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s finest matches, ones he’s memorized verbatim and now reenacts with a giant stuffed horse on the Jordans’ living room floor.
Brock leaves his plush victim lying on the floor and runs to the front door. Darting past the animal, he bounces off the couch as if it were ropes in a wrestling ring before dropping a devastating elbow to finish the match and raise his arms in victory.
“He’s never in a bad mood,” Bryce says of the Jordan brother few know. “That’s just the number one thing about him. Never down, never in a bad mood. Always happy.”
Lange and Brock interact more than most during home series. Greg Deichmann and Mike Papierski treat him wonderfully, too, Lori says.
“They’re not overly protective,” Lange says, “but that’s their boy.”
Beau straps an arm band before each game to the railing outside the first-base dugout at Alex Box Stadium. He loosens his shoulders and arms while Brock runs down from the parents’ section in the upper deck.
Assigning Brock on a spectrum is complex. He is nonverbal, though some words are discernable while he smiles and passionately expresses all his thoughts.
His common sense is sharp and he follows simple commands. Brock just finished seventh grade at S.J. Welsh Middle School and has a near-photographic memory. He created his own sign language at a young age. His sign today is cupping his hands around his mouth as if he’s hollering and pointing to his tail bone.
“Ho-tail,” Lori says. The family leaves for a hotel Thursday morning for the Baton Rouge regional.
Beau will stare up from his work. Brock instructs him to keep his top hand firm while he is batting. Few, if any, can understand Brock’s speech, sometimes not even Beau and Bryce.
It is no issue.
“As long as he’s laughing,” Beau says. “As long as he’s smiling. As long as he’s doing that, everything’s fine.”
The twins are built as defensive backs. Paul Mainieri once called them refrigerators. They speak softly and without intimidation about Brock. Both howl remembering when their little brother got so angry after a fussing he threw a shoe that cleared the gully behind their home before returning inside to confess his wrongdoing.
When the twins played at Barbe High School, coach Glenn Cecchini, himself a special education teacher, often had Brock in the dugout or as an honorary batboy. Beau and Bryce often led him out to the foul line, standing with the team for pregame ceremonies.
The batter’s box was much closer then, too, and more suitable to Brock’s constant hitting instruction.
“Watching them interact with Brock makes me want to be a better person,” Cecchini said. “Makes me want to be more compassionate, more kind, more loving. How they treated him makes you want to be a better man, husband, coach, brother, better son, better friend. And they never said anything about it.”
Rain falls outside the Champion’s Club, where LSU was named the No. 8 national seed two hours earlier on Memorial Day. Beau and Bryce spent Sunday, their first “true” day off in two weeks, enjoying Bayou Country Superfest before watching mixed martial arts.
Beau hesitates to use the word “fat.” As kids, he and Bryce were “hefty,” he says, leading to some different weight loss methods. Their father, Brad, introduced jiu-jitsu, the Brazilian martial art that emphasizes grappling and ground contact.
It sparked an obsession. The twins did not spar for long — just a year, Lori estimates. But the two now obsess over MMA and its fighters, a needed outlet in a 12-month baseball-centric calendar.
“I like it,” Bryce says. “I like it as a sport. Two guys going in there beating the crap out of each other. I love that.”
“I guess it’s just our mindsets,” Beau adds. “We like seeing physical contact.”
They’ve brought it to a sport where such physicality is limited. Bryce stands on top of the plate, leaving pitchers who try to throw him inside at an impasse. Lange says facing him in intrasquad games is “horrible.”
Bryce has been hit by 23 pitches this season for no other reason than he chooses not to move when baseballs speed toward his body. Brad recalls the boys playing travel ball for former big league pitcher and Nicholls State star Scott Sanders.
“If you get out of the way of the ball, you’re sitting,” Sanders would tell them. “We’re not giving up a free base.”
The two now hit back-to-back in the lineup. Bryce has the team’s highest on-base percentage. They take cues from one another on base, advancing on dirt balls or increasing secondary leads simultaneously.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to wash their uniforms anymore,” Lori says. “They play dirty. Everyone else would have clean uniforms, not Beau and Bryce,”
“Me too,” Brock interjects.
He plays Buddy Ball, a baseball league for developmentally disabled children. He pats the LSU batting helmet he wears in the games and shows off his catcher’s gear, mimicking one of Bryce’s many positions.
“Yep,” Lori says, “you too.”
Brock’s iPad must be guarded. He’s privy to FaceTiming anyone and any time. Beau and Bryce walked to class earlier this spring when their little brother called. The trio talked and, soon, class was beginning. Brock wasn’t done talking.
“We never treated him different,” Bryce says. “You wanted him to grow up in a normal atmosphere, we didn’t want to treat him any other way.”
Bryce is a nurturer. He ensures the twins’ apartment is clean, clothes washed and tempers his more aggressive “older” brother.
Beau was born one minute earlier. He’s recently shaved both sides of his head, leaving just a sole patch of long hair. Brock, unsurprisingly, requests the haircut his older brother received.
The three often wrestle on this living room floor where Brock just beat his stuffed animal. His championship belt lies off to the side. When his brothers return, that championship belt’s still applicable. Beau and Bryce tag team but Brock almost always wins.
“He likes the trash-talking just as much as he likes the wrestling,” Brad says.
The twins were on base April 29 against Ole Miss. Tigers catcher Jordan Romero barrelled into Rebels catcher Henri Lartigue, earning an ejection. Benches began to empty and the brothers
“The next thing I know,” Mainieri said that night. “I see the two Jordan boys and I’m like ‘What’s going on here?’”
Beau pointed to the Ole Miss bench after hearing some words. Bryce followed. Cooler heads eventually prevailed.
“I love it,” Beau says. “I don’t love starting stuff, but once stuff gets going, it gets me going. I’m like ‘Let’s go, what are we doing.’”
A runner was on first base. Beau Jordan picked up Jake Arledge’s single and threw to third from left field. A game which would later feature a rogue possum was scoreless. The runner who made it to second due to Beau’s gaffe scored, putting LSU in a 2-0 hole against Arkansas.
Mainieri benched Beau minutes later. It was the most public failure for either twin during breakout sophomore seasons.
“Sometimes after those games, you’re just like ‘God, I don’t want to see anybody don’t want to do anything,’” Bryce says.
“Until you see Brock. Then you’re like ‘All right.’ Stop and just take a step back and realize you’re lucky just to even be in the dugout. He’s always there, the good and bad.”
Beau and Bryce graduated from Barbe two years ago, yet Cecchini still introduces Brock to his teams. Cecchini suffers from Tourette’s syndrome and his ticks are noticeable, even to Brock, who enjoys imitating Louisiana’s most legendary high school baseball coach.
“He does you better than you do yourself,” Cecchini’s players say.
Players, present and past, often come to Cecchini with problems. One failed a test. The other broke up with his girlfriend. Another didn’t get into medical school.
Cecchini empathizes but presents Brock as perspective. The boy did nothing to be born with his limitations, Cecchini says.
“You know what we can all learn from Brock Jordan,” Cecchini says, “it’s just to be happy. He loves happy. He wants everyone happy, wants everyone to be happy.”
Brock recites John Cena’s matches, each with more enthusiasm than the last. “Callin’ Baton Rouge” plays prior to each LSU baseball game — Brock’s convinced it is played just for him — and he strums an fictional fiddle while dancing along.
“Take a step back and cherish how blessed you are to have a fully functioning body and how blessed you are to be athletic and your athleticism,” Beau says. “It puts a lot of things in perspective.
When the game is over and the twins finish their work, Brock waits in the same spot. Fans ask for his big brothers to sign memorabilia. Pictures are snapped, some with Brock coming in unannounced. He’s anxious to get the precious time to himself.
“He always gives us a hug and tells us ‘Good game,’” Bryce says. “That’s what I look forward to.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter @Chandler_Rome