During his three seasons at Nebraska, Alex Gordon provided so much for the university. One of the best players in program history, Gordon was a two-time All-American who helped the Huskers reach the 2005 College World Series and would go on to be the No. 2 overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft by Kansas City, where he has blossomed into a three-time Gold Glove winner in left field. His accomplishments helped put the program on the map and made Nebraska a school recruits had to pay attention to.
But Gordon's greatest impact may come from his most recent contribution, a $1 million dollar donation to the program that helped to pay for the new training complex for the baseball and softball teams. Nebraska awarded his generosity by naming the facility "The Alex Gordon Training Complex" and Friday, Gordon and his wife Jamie, baseball coach Darin Erstad, athletic director Shawn Eichorst and softball coach Rhonda Revelle officially cut the ribbon to ring in the facility, which was completed in the fall of 2011 and has been used by both teams since then.
"When someone like Alex and his family give back like this, you don't even have to say anything to recruits," Erstad said. "It speaks for itself of what this place means for him and his family. It just gives me goosebumps to think of what me and Alex and all of the former players have gone through and can now be in the position to give these guys these kind of facilities and have those same special moments we had… I have chills on my neck right now thinking about it.
"I was you could see when other teams show up here. They come the day before a series or the morning of and they walk through those doors. You should see the looks on their faces. They're like, 'What is this? This is ridiculous!' You see their eyes light up and it makes you really appreciate what you have and how fortunate we are to be able to have facilities like this."
Gordon took a few minutes after the ceremony to speak with the media about the donation, how he keeps up with the Huskers and where the Royals could go from here.
What made you want to make such a sizable contribution to the program?
"I didn't do it for the exposure or anything. Honestly, I just wanted to give back. I don't think I would be where I'm at right now if it wasn't for the University of Nebraska and what they did in my three years here. I just thought I would give back and help out the program any way I could."
You trained some in this facility during the offseason. How'd you hit in here?
"(Former Husker catcher and current volunteer assistant coach) Jeff Christy threw me some batting practice and I thought I hit pretty good. I got off to a good start at the beginning of the year (.328 batting average in April and May), so obviously he did something well. I used this facility last offseason for the first time. I used it for about a month and it was unbelievable. They're saying it's one of a kind and it really is. They don't have these kind of facilities in other places, so it's good that we have it here."
Did you know that your donation would be used toward a new training facility?
"I was donating it to the baseball program. I think (Husker athletic fund officer Mike) Dobbs and Erstad came up with this idea that would be good for recruiting and good for the program and that my name would be involved somehow. It was really a mix of their opinions and my opinions to come together and make this possible."
When you were here (from 2003-2005), where did you do your indoor training?
"Some warehouse that was a mile away. We had to drive through the snow to this warehouse, and it wasn't like this. Especially in weather like this in this climate, you need an area like this to get your things done."
You're obviously very busy with the Royals during the season, but how much do you follow the Huskers now?
"It's tough because we're playing every day, so it's hard to keep up with the program. But I try to keep in touch with Mike Dobbs and Darin Erstad as much as I can and try to be involved as much as I can. Like I said, we've got a busy season going on. During that time, I'd love to come back and catch a game, but unfortunately times haven't allowed that yet."
Can you talk about that season last year with the Royals?
"It was amazing with the energy and excitement at the end of the year. Usually when I'm playing for the Royals, we're not playing that way because we're not playing for anything in September. We're on the road and other teams of out of it and we're playing for something, and we had the home-field advantage. It was crazy. It kind of motivated everyone in the second half to play better and play well and keep that excitement going into this next year.
"We came down to the second-to-last series and we were still in it. It was pretty special and I think it was a good thing for us to experience as far as a young team dealing with that pressure and atmosphere and stuff like that. It was nowhere near postseason, but it was a step."
You just won your third straight Gold Glove. Five years ago, did you think you would be one of the game's premier outfielders?
No. It's crazy the turn my career made a couple of years ago. I would have never thought this would happen, but that's part of life. You get dealt obstacles and challenges and it's how you deal with them and how you approach them. I try to stay positive and just keep working hard and grinding away and it paid off."