Three years ago, Alex Gordon was an Omaha Royal, his career seemingly at a crossroads.
On Saturday, the former Nebraska All-American from Lincoln Southeast was named to his first American League All-Star team as one of two selections from the Kansas City Royals.
Back in 2010, Gordon hadn’t established himself as a major league force, and he hadn’t been able to stay healthy. And the second overall pick of the 2005 draft was being asked to move from third base to left field, presumably to clear a path for the up-and-coming Mike Moustakas, when he was demoted to Class AAA Omaha in early May.
But he got his game back together and adapted quickly to left field, becoming one of the league’s best outfielders and earning Gold Gloves for his defensive work each of his first two full seasons at the position.
“I’ve had my ups and downs, so this is pretty cool,” Gordon told the Associated Press.
“If you asked me about this three years ago, I’d have said no chance, so it’s pretty cool. (Kansas City manager) Ned (Yost) always says it’s something nobody can take away from you, so it’s something we’re going to embrace and have fun with and it’s pretty cool.”
For the first time in a decade, Kansas City landed two players on the All-Star team. Catcher Salvador Perez was also selected. Perez played 12 games for Omaha both in 2011 on his way up to the majors and again in 2012 on an injury rehabilitation assignment.
“Two very deserving guys, and two homegrown guys,” Yost told the AP. “It’s kind of a gauge of where you are in terms of your organization. When you have two, it’s not your obligatory one pick anymore, and both of these guys were voted on by their peers, which is special.”
Every team in both the American and National Leagues is assured of having at least one representative at the All-Star Game.
Gordon and Perez were selected in voting by league players, coaches and managers that determines eight pitchers and reserves. The starting position players are determined by fan voting. The rest of the 33-player rosters are selected by the All-Star managers, and then one final representative for each league will be determined among five finalists by another fan vote.
“I just think it is cool to be selected by the players,” Gordon said to the AP. “That’s when you get noticed. You see that other players, your peers, are really respecting how you’re playing.”
Gordon nearly made it to the All-Star Game in the final fan ballot in 2011, but finished third in that vote. Reliever Aaron Crow was the Royals’ lone selection that season.
Last year, Gordon got off to a slow offensive start and Billy Butler got the All-Star nod for Kansas City, when the Royals hosted the game at Kauffman Stadium.
After earning minor-league player of the year honors in 2006, Gordon hit .247 as a rookie in 2007 and .260 in 2008, and then hit just .232 in an injury-plagued 2009. In 2010, a season that he started on the disabled list and also included 2½ months in Omaha, Gordon bottomed out at .215 at the big-league level.
But in 2011 he hit .303 with 23 homers and 87 RBIs, then followed that up by hitting .294 with 14 homers, 72 RBIs and a league-high 51 doubles last season.
This year Gordon is hitting .290 with eight homers and 46 RBIs, and he was back in the Royals’ lineup Saturday after missing a game after crashing into the outfield wall while chasing a fly ball.
The last time Kansas City sent two players to the All-Star Game was 2003, when reliever Mike MacDougal and first baseman Mike Sweeney were picked.
Perez, one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, is also hitting .302 with four homers and 36 RBIs.
Kansas City is also hopeful that closer Greg Holland could eventually make his way onto the roster for the July 16 game at New York’s Citi Field if there is an opening because of injuries or if one of the selected pitchers is unable to play.
Holland, who pitched for Omaha for parts of the 2009 through 2011 seasons, is 2-1 with 20 saves, a 1.91 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 33 innings.
Gordon said Holland is also deserving.
“I think he knows it, and I think everyone in the clubhouse knows it,” Gordon told AP. “His numbers right now, it’s pretty amazing. I told him, ‘You’re well-deserving as well.’ Hopefully he keeps it up and people take notice, because he’s one of those players who’s pretty amazing.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.