Gordon gives back in name of love

Gordon gives back in name of love

KANSAS CITY -- Sometimes it doesn't take much to find a common bond between two people. For a 5-year-old cancer patient and a big league outfielder, all it took was a name.

Alexander Spencer was the first child to greet Royals left fielder Alex Gordon when Gordon visited Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City on Tuesday. The two instantly started talking about their shared first name, and Gordon autographed a Royals hat the child was wearing.

Alexander was one of just many young patients Gordon visited with Tuesday afternoon. The visit was part of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a charity group that Gordon has been affiliated with for seven years, which raises money and awareness for children's cancer research.

Gordon showed up to a room full of children who were sitting at tables and coloring pictures of the Royals mascot, Sluggerrr. He visited with each child, making conversation, signing autographs, coloring and handing out plush Sluggerrr toys.

The children all talked with the Royals outfielder and received autographed cards before taking individual pictures with him. There wasn't a smile-free face in the room, with the children, their families, hospital employees and Gordon all wearing big grins throughout the visit.

According to Kara Cunningham, a volunteer representative from Alex's Lemonade Stand, Gordon has donated his time to the charity for seven years. He's helped out with Lemonade Stand events at local grocery stores and recorded PSA's that have aired in the Kansas City area. Tuesday was his first visit to the hospital.

Most of the children were shy, but Gordon said he asked them a few baseball questions and discovered a couple of big Royals fans.

"There's a couple that are Royals fans and are excited to see you," Gordon said. "I give them high fives and tell them to go get a win tonight. It's fun to be around, and it gets you out of your daily grind of playing baseball to go out there and spend time with the kids and just to have some fun with them."

Alexander was decked out in Royals gear, and his mother said it took him three minutes to get dressed when he found out Gordon was coming to visit. Alexander said he liked to play baseball and that Gordon was his favorite player as he hugged his plush Sluggerrr. After taking his turn talking to Gordon, Alexander waited for picture time, and the outfielder remembered his new friend's name when it was time for the snapshot.

How could he forget it?

After the children left, Gordon said that opportunities to get out in the community such as this one are great for the team.

"They come to our games all the time and give us amazing support through the tough times and the good times," Gordon said. "When we can reach out and come out and spend some time with the community, it's great for every player to do. I'm happy to do it. I take a lot of passion in it too."

In addition to Gordon's involvement, the Royals are making their own contribution to the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. The team and vendor Aramark are donating 50 cents from each lemonade sold this season to the charity.

The Lemonade Stand Foundation will host its National Lemonade Days from June 8-10 at local Hy-Vee stores. Kansas City Lemonade Stands will be held June 1-2.

Children can view athletes as heroes, but these youngsters can give the heroes inspiration in return. Gordon said he wasn't there to act as hero, but rather to donate a few minutes of fun for the children.

"When I'm here, I don't think of me in that way. I'm here just to be here and to make the kids smile and just to entertain them, help them out in any way that I can," Gordon said. "I don't think I'm a hero coming in here, even though that's what they might think. I do it just to see the kids' face and reaction and smile. They're going through a lot with their lives right now. It's the least I could do to come here and make a kid smile."

The children might not have a Gold Glove like the big leaguer who came to visit, but they bested the outfielder at one thing: coloring.

"I was bad [at coloring]," Gordon said. "I think they were better than me. They were filling in the lines. I was all over the place. I can sign my autograph, but I can't color. But they were doing a pretty good job."

Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.