The Royals honored a franchise great Saturday night by having a pregame ceremony at Kauffman Stadium for retired outfielder Alex Gordon. And somebody clever in the Royals planning department added a neat twist to Gordon’s ceremonial first pitch to former teammate Salvador Perez:
Gordon’s one-hop strike nailed the ceremonial invisible runner at the plate, just like the old days! Are you sure you want to stay retired, Gordo? Patrolling the vast meadow in left field at Kauffman (and elsewhere), Gordon had 102 career assists. It was something of a running joke among Royals watchers that anyone would ever try to take an extra base on Gordon. It appears he still has it. After all, he did win a Gold Glove in his final season, only the third player to do so.
The first pitch ceremony in general actually started as something done by a celebrity from the stands — like with the act’s pioneer, President William Howard Taft — and it stayed that way into the ‘70s and even later. These days, it’s usually done from the pitcher’s mound, no matter if the person who is pitching is up to making a 60½-foot throw or not. It’s still an honor to throw out the first pitch, but it’s also something of a tired aesthetic. Seen one, seen ‘em all. Unless it goes horribly wrong.
That’s what makes Gordon’s moment special. Gordon, who just turned 37, retired after the 2020 season as one of the more accomplished players in club history. An eight-time Gold Glove winner (and two-time Platinum winner), a three-time All-Star and World Series hero in 2015, Gordon also accumulated a 34.3 bWAR in 14 seasons, just behind Frank White and ahead of Hal McRae for eighth in club history. It is likely that one day soon, Gordon will join them in the Royals Hall of Fame. But his journey wasn’t one without trials and tribulations.
After coming to the majors as a third baseman in 2007 and struggling at the plate for 3½ seasons, Gordon remade himself into a left fielder starting with a second stint at Triple-A Omaha, near his hometown of Lincoln, Neb. It was quite an act of modesty for a consensus top MLB prospect, but Gordon made it work, emerging in 2011 as a down-ballot MVP candidate who batted .303/.376/.502 and won his first Gold Glove.
While known for his throwing arm, Gordon wouldn’t have won those Gold Gloves without the ability to go get the ball at a sometimes epic level. His catch against the White Sox in 2015 is probably his best defensive play of any kind:
Gordon’s top overall moment probably came later that season in the World Series, when he famously hit a tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 against the Mets’ Jeurys Familia.
The Royals won the ‘15 championship in five games, and it was nearly a repeat of 2014 with Gordon acting as a major figure. After seeing his myriad trophies presented by teammates and listening to his career accomplishments read by Bally Sports Kansas City broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre, Gordon told the fans gathered at Kauffman that he’d like to shake everyone’s hand for being there:
That’s a typical message from Gordon, who didn’t usually seek to be the center of attention but always acted appreciative of anybody who showed up to the ballpark because of him.