Don't try this at home: Gordon's pregame regimen unimaginable
Royals teammates in awe of All-Star left fielder's work ethic
KANSAS CITY -- Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz often shows up at the ballpark a few minutes after noon, seven hours before first pitch, and when he strolls into the clubhouse he'll see his left fielder, Alex Gordon, in workout clothes and itching to get his day started.
"I walk in, I say hi to him and the next thing I know, he's coming out at 6:30 to get his pregame for a 7:05 game," Kuntz said. "I'm like, 'What the heck did you do all day?'"
A lot, actually.
Gordon's pregame routine is the stuff of legend, the kind nobody on this upstart Royals team dares to mimic for very long. Not Kuntz, who's pushing 60. Not Eric Hosmer, the 24-year-old first baseman who's six years Gordon's junior.
"I wouldn't be able to play the game that night if I tried," Hosmer said, laughing. "It's incredible. It's unheard of, actually. It's unbelievable to see firsthand."
The Royals -- two wins away from the World Series and riding a six-game winning streak in their first postseason in 29 years -- are perceived as a team devoid of stars, but they don't lack a cornerstone player. It's Gordon, the lifelong Royals fan who went from a failed first-round pick at third base to a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner in left field.
He did it with uncommon discipline and a pregame routine that borders on obsessive compulsive, where every second of every minute of every hour is accounted for, every single day of the arduous baseball season.
"Unbelievable," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "I've never seen anybody do what he does on a daily basis."
Gordon works out with a stopwatch in his hand, so he can track every second spent in the weight room. Royals manager Ned Yost has often said Gordon uses the bathroom at the exact same time each day, and nobody thinks he's joking.
During media availability from Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Thursday, Gordon was the only player not at the table because it occurred at the same time as his session in the trainer's room. And when players were being introduced on the field for Game 1 on Friday night, Gordon needed to be told the exact time his name would be called so he could appear in the tunnel in full uniform and not wait around.
It's not that he's difficult or unavailable or even fussy. In fact, vice president of communications and broadcasting Mike Swanson will tell you Gordon is "phenomenally media savvy" and "ridiculously polite."
He just can't afford any wasted seconds -- or milliseconds, for that matter.
"Once you get in the league for a while, you know what works best for you," Gordon said. "I found a good routine, and it might be a little bit more than some other people's, but it definitely works for me."
Swanson vividly recalls two seasons ago catching a dirty look from Gordon -- as chiseled as they come -- as Swanson went to the ice-cream machine in the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field.
"Before I die," Swanson said, "I want to see you eat one of these."
"Well," Gordon told him, "you better live a really long life."
It hasn't happened since, and probably won't any time soon.
"To totally avoid those types of foods for years is a whole other level of discipline that a lot of people in the general population can't fathom, nor do people in professional athletics often have that type of discipline," Royals strength and conditioning coach Ryan Stoneberg said. "He's very special when it comes to that."
One of Gordon's first tasks is normally to prep the protein shake he'll drink while on his way from the weight room to the batting cage. He'll then write down every detail of his workouts that day, followed by a one hour regimen of stretching, band work and short, intense sets of weight-bearing exercises.
From there it's off to some combination of meditation, Jacuzzi time, throws in the batting cage and sprints on the field, all before his teammates come out to stretch.
Then his signature workout begins.
They call it "power shagging." Gordon will take his position in left field and react to every ball hit in his vicinity as if it occurred in a game situation, going through all the motions of his crow hop and chasing after every ball in the gap as if it were the ninth inning of a tied game.
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain and right fielder Nori Aoki have started doing it, too. During Spring Training, video coordinator Mark Topping kept a camera on Gordon, broke the tape down into a three-minute highlight reel and sent it to all the affiliates as a teaching tool.
"All right, boys, you want to win a Gold Glove in the big leagues? This is what it's going to take," Kuntz said. "Hit the tape, here we go, boom. And for three minutes they just sit there with their eyes going, 'Are you kidding me?!'"
It's why Gordon can sport a rather pedestrian .266/.351/.432 slash line during the regular season and still finish in the top five among position players in Wins Above Replacement. It's why he can strike out four times in Game 2 of the ALCS -- after going 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in Game 1 -- and still greatly impact the outcome, because Orioles third-base coach Bobby Dickerson wouldn't dare send the speedy Nick Markakis home from second on a base hit with the score tied in the seventh inning.
It's why the four-year, $37.5-million extension awarded to Gordon in March 2012 was such a no-brainer.
"That's probably the most comfortable extension they've ever given, because you know he's going to come in and do his work," Hosmer said. "You know he's going to lead by example, every single day. You know he's going to make sure everything in the clubhouse is going on, and that everybody's doing what they're supposed to be doing. It's as professional as you can get."