Alex Gordon put on a Kansas City Royals jersey one more time and made one last strong, accurate throw to the plate, a one-hopper to longtime teammate Salvador Perez which prompted an eruption of applause in a retirement ceremony roughly 10 months in the making.
Gordon retired at the end of last season without fans in attendance after he spent his entire 14-year career in the majors with the Royals.
While the franchise did its best to make his send-off special in September, they held a celebratory Alex Gordon Day at Kauffman Stadium prior to Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers.
The Royals honored Gordon, a Nebraska native and 2005 No. 2 overall draft pick, with a pregame ceremony on the field. The eight-time Gold Glove winner, two-time Platinum Glove winner, three-time All-Star and 2015 World Series champion. Gordon’s throw to Perez capped the ceremony.
“I was a little kid in Nebraska coming to these games sitting up in the nose bleeds, watching, being a fan,” Gordon said when he addressed the crowd. “To be able to spend 14 years with you guys and all the love and support you guys gave me over my career, words can’t express how much you guys mean to me. All of you. I love you guys.”
Gordon’s jersey No. 4 adorned various parts of the ballpark, including a cutout in the grass in the middle of the field right behind second base.
Hours before first pitch, the Crown Vision video board as well as the outfield wall LED boards and the video board on the Royals Hall of Fame also boasted “Alex Gordon Day” layered over the No. 4 combined with the silhouette of Gordon rounding first base with his finger in the air after hitting a pivotal home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.
The ceremony began with Gordon’s family, his wife Jamie, their children, sons Max and Sam and their daughter Joey, and Gordon’s mother Leslie, on the field as Gordon got introduced and emerged from the dugout and took the field one last time.
Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson carried the World Series trophy onto the field, while Royals manager Mike Matheny brought out the last of Gordon’s eight Gold Glove awards. First-base coach and outfield coach Rusty Kuntz, who oversaw Gordon’s transition from third base to left field, carried Gordon’s 2020 Platinum Glove onto the field.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore presented a bouquet of flowers to Gordon’s mother, wife and daughter before he lauded Gordon.
“As we all know, Alex is one of the very best players ever to put on a Kansas City Royals uniform,” Moore said. “And we all acknowledge, and history forever will record, all that he has accomplished, the Gold Gloves, the Platinum awards, the multiple All-Star Games, the American League championship, the World Series championship, all of the great plays and all of the memorable hits.
“But what this community understands is what he is as a person, who he is as a man, what he meant and continues to mean to this special community and who he is as a father, a son and a husband.”
The gifts from the Royals to Gordon included a painting of the scene as Gordon looked up at the end of his follow through on his home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, tickets to the Indianapolis 500, tickets to the Kentucky Derby and tickets to the Masters PGA golf tournament.
Boulevard Brewing Company has created a beer called Gordon’s Golden Ale with a portion of proceeds going to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charity Gordon has supported in the past that helps families with children fighting cancer.
Former teammates Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield all took part in the celebration and presented gifts on behalf of the Royals, as did chairman and CEO John Sherman.
Gordon’s awards and status as one of the top defensive players in franchise history and his long reel of jaw-dropping catches and throws may form his legacy in the minds of fans and followers outside the organization.
Inside the Royals clubhouse, Gordon’s lasting influence will carry on in far less glamorous yet more consequential ways.
His work ethic and remarkable consistency have taken on legendary status. It seemingly took an act of congress to alter his pregame routines. His discipline in taking care of his body and adhering to a strict diet is unsurpassed.
He set an incredibly high bar with the way he’d work on getting jumps and reading fly balls during batting practice with the intensity of a wild man.
Even in the final home stand of his career last September, Gordon still rushed his manager through a pregame conversation off the field in order to return to shagging fly balls during batting practice.
Ironically, prior to last season Matheny asked the team to read a book entitled “Legacy” by James Kerr. The book detailed the inner workings and principles of the historically successful “All Blacks,” New Zealand’s legendary ruby team.
As much as the Royals took steps to honor Gordon publicly last season, Matheny said just as many steps were taken to recognize and cement Gordon’s impact within the organization.
“Internally and privately, they made a clear statement that what Alex was able to do and how he went about his business is something to be aimed for,” Matheny said. “That’s legacy stuff.”
Gordon’s old locker has become one prominent and tangible example inside the clubhouse. Dozier now takes up residence there, Gordon’s No. 4 and that familiar silhouette of him rounding first, finger in the air, displayed above the locker stall.
Throughout his career, Gordon took a lead-by-example approach. In his final season, he embraced his status as an elder statesman. He leaned into his wealth of experience and exercised his influence in a more vocal way, both with individual players and the larger group.
“I was just really proud to watch Alex, last year, take a step,” Matheny said. “Realizing, this is my last chance to have a voice. In the past, it had been — watch me do what I do and see if you can keep up. You can trust me when it’s my turn to do my job, I’m going to do it. And you can trust me when I leave here, I’m going to do the things that are going to prepare me to do what I need to do tomorrow. Those are huge statements.”
Last year, Gordon went beyond being the silent example and started using his voice more prominently. Matheny, who had a front-row seat, described the transition as “amazing” and credited Gordon as being “off the charts good” at connecting with players in meaningful ways.
“Everything he had to say had value, more value than what we have as coaches,” Matheny said. “A peer-to-peer thing is powerful, and he did a terrific job last year of, I believe, taking a legacy he took a long time to build and even taking it to another level.”
Merrifield, a two-time All-Star, has no doubt that Gordon’s influence still resonates throughout the current clubhouse even without Gordon physically present on a daily basis this season.
Merrifield contends that for the players who spent years around Gordon, his impact won’t simply fade away. Just being around him every day, seeing how he worked, how he went about his business regardless of how things were going for him individually, that left an impression on guys like Merrifield.
The individual discussions certainly held meaning also. Last week, Nicky Lopez mentioned Gordon as one of the veterans he leaned on when Lopez was still trying to find his way in the majors and his confidence wavered at times.
Gordon’s transition from third base to the outfield served as a road map for Dozier last season when he made that switch. Gordon served as a sounding board in that regard as well.
“I think he understood where he was in his career and where our team was,” Merrifield said. “He knew the importance of him being able to rub off on some guys, and he took that to heart and did a great job with it.”