LINCOLN — The ribbon-cutting ceremony wasn't held until Friday afternoon, but Alex Gordon was already well familiar with the hitting facility now bearing his name.
The Kansas City Royals outfielder used it for a month last offseason. “It was unbelievable,” Gordon said.
The athletic department invited Gordon back to campus Friday to honor the former Husker, whose contributions helped lead to the construction of Nebraska's $4.75 million indoor practice complex for its baseball and softball teams.
Gordon said he initially wanted to simply — and privately — donate to his alma mater.
Little did he know that softball coach Rhonda Revelle had lobbied for an indoor facility during her first meeting with former Athletic Director Tom Osborne nearly five years ago. Baseball coach Darin Erstad was looking for more ways to connect the program to its tradition-rich past.
Gordon didn't need to be persuaded when he heard the plan.
“I wouldn't be where I'm at right now if it wasn't for the University of Nebraska,” he said. “I just wanted to give back and help out the program any way I could.”
The facility, which opened in September 2011, was renamed the Alex Gordon Training Complex after Nebraska's Board of Regents approved an athletic department request in May. Gordon had donated $1 million to the project.
Both baseball and softball teams were on hand for Friday's ceremony, crowding behind a few rows of chairs as Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, Revelle and Erstad took turns at the lectern, thanking Gordon and his wife, Jamie.
“When somebody like Alex and his family give back like that, you don't even have to say anything to recruits,” Erstad said. “That speaks for itself.”
Gordon's name is engraved on a wall in the building's entryway lobby, which overlooks a fieldTurf surface covering a 120-foot by 150-foot area. The facility features six batting cages and a ceiling as high as 30 feet.
But what Gordon, and most Huskers, can appreciate is that it's located next to the baseball and softball stadiums (and their locker rooms). Gordon's not even sure he could give directions to the place he and his teammates trained during the winter a decade ago.
“It was some warehouse that was, I think, a mile away. We had to drive in the snow,” Gordon said. “It wasn't spacious.”
Not at all like the Huskers' new spot, where Gordon might return this winter.
He joked that his strong start at the plate in 2013 (Gordon hit .317 in April and .339 in May) was likely due to the batting practice he had there.
Gordon, who just completed his seventh major league season, would love to build on the run he and the Royals had last September. Kansas City was in contention for its first playoff spot since 1985 until the second-to-last series.
The Royals had three All-Star representatives (including Gordon) and three Gold Glove winners for the first time in franchise history (Gordon won his third straight).
“I think it was a good thing for us to experience as far as a young team dealing with that kind of pressure, atmosphere, stuff like that,” Gordon said. “It was nowhere near postseason, but it was a step.”
And he thinks Kansas City is capable of building off last season's success.
“It was amazing, the energy and the excitement we had at the end of the year,” Gordon said. “It kind of motivated everyone in the second half to play better and play well, and hopefully we keep that excitement going into next year.”
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Video: Ribbon cutting