By Rob Rains
Brian Gorman was about to go into a meeting at his office in Phoenix Tuesday morning when he received a text alert on his phone.
“I knew the meeting was going to last several hours and I got an update on the phone that (Juan) Soto was going to the Padres,” Gorman said. “I had just a few minutes to read about it a little bit and understood that he was going somewhere else and the Cardinals were not involved.
“I’ve got to say I had a pretty big smile on my face when I saw it.”
Gorman had a personal stake in the outcome of the trade talks because one of the players whose name was included in the flood of rumors over the past several days was his son, Nolan.
Someone who could relate to that feeling was in his own office more than 1,800 miles away, in Atlanta, when he heard the same news – and had the same reaction.
Derek Walker, the father of Jordan Walker, also had heard his son’s name included in all of those rumors, leaving him, his wife and other family members on “pins and needles.”
“We probably had been that way for two weeks, ever since the trade talks started,” Walker said. “With the intensity of the media talking about it, his name was out there more and more over the weekend.”
Even with the news that the Nationals were trading Soto to the Padres, Walker was not yet ready to exhale.
“Basically I couldn’t take a whole breath until 6 p.m. Eastern time,” he said. “It wasn’t 6 p.m. so I felt like anything could happen … Honestly, I was very nervous.
“I really like the Cardinals organization and how great they are with player development. I was looking forward to him continuing in the organization. Nothing against the Nationals, but they’re not the Cardinals.”
While the trading deadline creates excitement among fans, it has a different effect on people like Brian Gorman and Derek Walker, having to sit, watch and wait to see if their sons were going to be moved to another team.
It’s something a lot of fans don’t really think about – how the parents might be more concerned about what is going on than their sons.
“There’s probably a lot of truth to that,” Gorman said. “I think we’re concerned about different things. As a player they can’t be too overly concerned about it, not with what they’ve got to go out there and do.
“As parents we have more that we have to be concerned with. In Nolan’s case, we checked in with him once in a while. He doesn’t want to be bothered with questions about it and we try to respect that and not poke the bear too much.
“At the same time, you try to keep your finger on the pulse of where he’s at mentally and emotionally. They’re not robots. They can’t just completely turn it off. As a parent, we worry about how they are handling it especially when you don’t have the same visibility as when they lived with you every day.”
Neither Gorman, 22, and Walker, 20, are not that far removed from those days which also probably creates a different level of tension among their parents.
To a lesser degree, the parents of Dylan Carlson, now 23, could relate to what the Gorman and Walker family’s were going through. Jeff Carlson also saw his son’s name mentioned in trade rumors, even though he never thought there was much of a chance he would be traded – even before John Mozeliak told Dylan over the weekend that he wasn’t going anywhere.
“You are always a little nervous,” Carlson said. “When Dylan was a pretty high prospect, any time there was a big deal being discussed, that’s a big chip.”
Carlson said that his wife, Caryn, like Jennifer Gorman and Katrina Walker, had more of a personal reaction to the rumors than he or the fathers.
“Moms just want to know where their son is going to be,” Carlson said. “Nobody thinks about the family aspect of it. It’s obviously tough on the players, but also their families. They are just hoping for the best. Whatever happens you have to support them.”
Gorman said, “Jennifer was probably a little more nervous than I was. Moms worry about their baby and emotions. I’m more thinking of the baseball aspects. She was a little more on edge the last few days – even rooting against Soto on the TV. I don’t know why; I don’t know what that would have done, but all of a sudden it was like he was the enemy.”
As the deadline approached, the Walkers didn’t know whether they should be happy or not that Jordan had a big weekend for Double A Springfield, hitting two home runs on Friday night and then matching that performance on Sunday.
“We analyzed whether that was a good thing or a bad thing,” Walker said. “Does it make the Natiionals want him more, or make the Cardinals want to keep him more? We didn’t know.”
What all three families realized was that with the trade rumors, came opinions, from fans and media alike, about their sons and whether they should stay with the Cardinals or be included in a deal.
It was hard not to take the negative comments personally, all said.
“Twitter was my friend and my foe,” Walker said. “It gave me enough information to be dangerous and probably too much analysis from people who didn’t really know anything. It was my constant companion day and night.
“It was probably 50-50 of people who would say, ‘Don’t trade Jordan Walker no matter what’ versus people who would say, ‘I’d give up my uncle and auntie if it would help get Juan Soto over here.’ It was definitely the two extremes.”
The Gorman’s had the same reaction.
“One minute they love you and the next they can’t wait for you to go,” Gorman said. “As Nolan was coming up he was a pretty highly-touted prospect and had some early success so there were a lot of positive things out there to read.
“Then all of a sudden it’s ‘Get rid of this guy. He strikes out too much,’ all those kinds of things. It hurts, honestly, at first. Then you realize this is just part of it. The best thing to do is just stay the heck away from it if you don’t want to get your feelings hurt.”
Both the Gorman’s and Walker’s said they tried to walk the fine line of staying connected with their sons as the trading deadline approached, but also trying not to put additional pressure on them by constantly bringing it up.
“We only talked once, on Sunday, partially because I didn’t want to make him nervous,” Walker said. “He generally doesn’t get nervous about much anyway but I didn’t want to add to that, wanting him to focus on baseball.
“He clearly was aware of what was going on but his attitude was just like how it is about a bunch of other things, it is what it is. He had no control on it, just focus on playing.”
It was easier for their sons to do that than it was for other family members.
“I just got off the phone with my mom,” Walker said a couple of hours after the deadline had passed. “She also was on pins and needles. We had pretty many family members on both sides just waiting until that bell was going to ring.”
As Gorman heard rumors about the Cardinals being interested in Oakland’s Frankie Montas, he had to think about that trade possibility as well as the rumors with the Nationals. Hearing that Montas was going to the Yankees also produced a sigh of relief.
“I shared with some of my coworkers who kind of live with this stuff with me and everyone said cool,” Gorman said. “We actually were meeting with a consultant who is from St. Louis and a big Cardinals fan who just happened to be there. He said, ‘On behalf of Cardinal nation we’re happy he is still with us.’”
Even though they share a common bond, the parents of Gorman, Walker and Carlson have never met, but Derek Walker hopes that happens sometime soon; “Maybe at a game at Busch Stadium,” Walker said.
While Carlson didn’t have to worry about his son, he saw one of his former players, J.D. Davis, traded before the deadline from the Mets to the Giants. Last year, another player who was on his high school team, Nick Madrigal, was dealt at the deadline from the White Sox to the Cubs.
“I’m excited for him,” Carlson said about Davis. “I think it’s a great opportunity for him to play everyday and I know his parents are excited because he will be playing 90 minutes away from home.”
It was the chance to play near home, at least for a couple of days, that the Gorman’s kept thinking about as they waited for the deadline to pass. The Cardinals play in Phoenix from Aug. 19-21, and the Gorman’s reserved a section of seats for family and friends for the first two games of the series.
They just needed assurance that their son actually would be there for those games.
“We didn’t send out the information for our family and friends about how to buy the tickets because we just didn’t know,” Gorman said. “We needed the day to pass. Now we know we can send it out and put the Army together. It’s going to be a blast.”
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photos courtesy of Brian Gorman and Derek Walker