KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, will retire after the season.
He said during a Zoom news conference Thursday that the pandemic reinforced his feelings that he wants to spend more time with his family and “catch up on things I’ve missed my whole life.”
Gordon had signed a one-year deal to play with the Royals, and now he will do what so few have done in pro sports: end his career with the team where it began.
“It’s hard. I think any baseball player would say that,” said Gordon, who turns 37 in February. “You grow up playing this game, it’s a game you love, but you come to that day when you know it’s over – it’s hard.”
Gordon thought about retirement last year, when the Royals were hiring Mike Matheny to replace his longtime manager, Ned Yost, and the team appeared to be rebuilding. But with teammates such as Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez still in the clubhouse, Gordon decided to keep playing for a team he believes is on the cusp of winning.
That changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the game shut down, Gordon knew this would be the end.
“I feel like at the end of the day, I’m missing my kids and their activities more than I’m going to miss this,” he said. “It’s kind of bittersweet because this is hard for me to do. This is what I’ve done my whole life. but at the same time I’m excited to be around my family, be around my kids, and just catch up on things I’ve missed my whole life.”
Gordon said his immediate plans are to hit the links. He often plays golf with teammates Whit Merrifield and Greg Holland during the season, and the left-handed Gordon wants to finally beat them by this time next year.
And, after diligently adhering to a healthy diet, he’s dying for some pizza.
“It’s very difficult to articulate your feelings and emotions at a time like this,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said, “but Alex has set the bar on the field, off the field. His work ethic and commitment truly has reached legendary status.”
Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft after a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.
He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.
The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.
“There’s always going to be ups and downs,” he said, “but that’s part of life. You have to keep looking forward.”
While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.
Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.
It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.
“You always had respect and admiration for the way Alex played the game,” Matheny said, “but also the way he wore the jersey. He’s one of the players that embodied a style and excellence that comes with the brand of the Kansas City Royals.”
Gordon admits that he rarely cries – his wife, Jamie, often chides him about it. But he finally teared up this week when the text messages flowed in from teammates, rivals and longtime friends. And when Gordon thought about spending more time with his two sons and little girl, it was hard to make them stop.
“I remember telling my teachers I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player and sure enough it happened. “he said. “This game has been great for me over my career, but at the same time – I’m very blessed to do this as long as I have – but it does take away from family time. It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m going to miss my teammates in there, and competing with them, but at the same time I’m excited about the next chapter in my life.”