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Happy Retirement Gordo

Happy Retirement Gordo

I’ve been at this broadcasting thing quite a while.  Exactly 26 years next month, which means I’ve had the privilege of talking to thousands of athletes at every level.   From high school to the pros, from small town super stars to hall of famers.  Too many names to rattle off but Alex Gordon tops the list.  There’s not one person I’ve covered or spent more time around in my career than “Gordo.”

So on a personal level, learning of Alex Gordon’s retirement today is bitter sweet.  I’ve seen guys I’ve covered that are now coaches and broadcasters.  Alex was the last player who was on the field when I arrived in Kansas City in 2008 to still be suiting up for the Royals.  Back then, he was a 24-year old kid, trying to live up to the expectations of a first round draft pick labeled as the next George Brett at third base.

I remember interviewing him my first year during spring training in the dugout.  Joey Gathright had just made an unreal play and I asked Alex before we started the live interview not to say he was excited to watch the play later on Sports Center.  Back then we weren’t really supposed to mention the competition.  Instead, he said he couldn’t wait to watch it on ESPN.  That was my first introduction into Gordo’s dry sense of humor.  There would be handshakes on the field, only to realize after it was too late that he had pine tar smothered on his batting glove (that stuff is a bitch to get off your hand).   For years he walked through our live pregame show spot outside the road dugout, right in front of the camera to mess up our shot, game after game with that wry smile. His timing to pull the prank off never really worked because he always passed through during a commercial but he loved it nonetheless.  Before the “Salvy Splash” was a thing, Gordo dumped a bucket on my guest one night and some of the Gatorade hit me.  An hour later I was sitting on the team charter, the back of my neck all sticky, waiting to leave for St. Louis. Gordo walks by me, “Did I get you?” while again flashing that wry smile.

One year in Detroit I asked him after the all-star break how he spent the week.  He told me he worked on his golf game, converting from lefty to righty.  I wondered if that would affect his baseball swing.  The smile returned, and he replied, “Can’t screw it up any more than it already is.”  We made a Wisconsin-Nebraska football bet one year regarding our alma maters.  If Wisconsin won he had to wear a Badger hat during batting practice.  If Nebraska was victorious, I had to wear his sweaty, disgusting, Royals hat.  He won and slammed it on my head with pride and it was nasty!  His low-key personality did give way to school pride on Husker Night at Kauffman Stadium as he led the crowd during our live postgame interview in a chant of “Gooooo Biggggg Red!”  His voice cracked, he was totally out of comfort zone but the crowd loved it.  I knew that would be the last time he would sing on camera.  If I had a quarter for every time a Nebraska fan told me Alex was their favorite I would have some extra savings money!

Everyone in the media loved Alex but he generally wasn’t considered a go-to guy for interviews.  Not because he didn’t want to, but because he was so busy preparing.  I always found him to be my go-to guy, though.  Just had to know when to get him and not mess up his routine.  I watched Gordo go from newlywed to father of three.  His kids attending class with the same teachers my son and daughter once had in elementary school.  I remember taking my family to Omaha on a Royals off-day in 2010 to watch the Triple-A team play.  We sat behind home plate with Alex’s amazing wife Jamie and the kids. Little did any of us realize he would go on to be the best defensive left fielder of his time.   These were the early moments of a transformation that would result in seven Gold Gloves.

He’s the ultimate family man.  No surprise.  His mom Leslie raised four boys and is a cancer survivor.  Anyone that’s ever met Leslie knows she’s among the sweetest people you could know.  His late father Mike was soft-spoken.  The Gordon boys tell stories about a different side of their father as a tough coach.  I see Leslie and Mike in Alex every day.

We can talk about the home run in the World Series or the amazing catches.  His good buddy Luke Hochevar called the moments where Gordon crashed into the wall TGM’s.  Total Gordo Moves.  Lay on the field, milk the moment and pop right up and back to action.  The numbers and awards speak for themselves but ask any teammate about Alex Gordon and they will tell you of the quiet leader.  How many times did Gordo put his arm around a young player or privately call them out to teach them how to better do their job or respect the game?  You will not find a player with a bad word to say about Alex Gordon.  There’s not one to say.

 He represented his family, the Royals, Kansas City, Nebraska and this region impeccably for nearly 15 years.   The Royals Hall of Fame and hopefully a statue await.  In the meantime, I hope his golf game improves.  He gave me those left handed clubs when he switched to righty all those years back.  Gordo recently asked me a question.  “Can I borrow those clubs?  I’m thinking of switching back to lefty.”  He will have plenty of time to figure it out.  Happy Retirement Gordo.