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Gordon carved path to Majors in Arizona Fall League

Royals outfielder on talented Scorpions squad, along with future KC teammate Butler

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Alex Gordon was the second overall choice in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, but he and the Royals couldn't agree on a deal until late September that year.

That meant Gordon, a prize third baseman from the University of Nebraska, would not start his pro career at Double-A Wichita as the Kansas City club had envisioned. By then, the Texas League season was long gone.

So the backup plan was to put Gordon on a flight to Phoenix and get him to the Surprise, Ariz., training complex where he could take part in the Instructional League. They'd also put him on a "taxi squad" for the Arizona Fall League in the hope an opening would occur.

"I was a late arrival. I had just signed my professional contract and I came to instrux, and a spot opened up and they sent me to the AFL," Gordon recalled.

Gordon joined the Scottsdale Scorpions and was installed as the first baseman.

"From instrux, the AFL was a big upgrade so it was fun. I played first most of the time because that was the opening, at first base. It was good experience," Gordon said.

Gordon played in 16 games, batted .260 (13-for-50) and had four doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs.

"We came in second place, but I remember the team that won it had Stephen Drew, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, guy after guy after guy, and a lot of them are in the big leagues now, too," Gordon said.

His Scorpions produced its share of Major Leaguers, too.

"Billy Butler was on my team and Howie Kendrick, one of my favorite players, was too," Gordon said.

Butler, now the Royals' designated hitter, was playing the outfield then and batted .252 in 26 games. However, he also pounded five homers and drove in 21 runs. Kendrick, who rose to stardom with the Angels, also whacked five homers and had 17 RBIs in 29 games to go along with a .380 average.

Kendrys Morales also played first base for the Scorpions and batted .380 in 24 games, hitting two homers with 18 RBIs. Outfielder Michael Bourn also was a teammate, with a .300 average and 15 RBIs in 23 games.

The pitching staff included Jered Weaver, whose 1-3 record and 5.47 ERA gave little hint of the great success he'd encounter with the Angels.

The AFL was the first rung on Gordon's short ladder in his quick climb to the Majors. He finally got to Wichita the next year, 2006, and exploded with 101 RBIs, 29 homers and a .325 average. That showing enabled him in 2007 to jump right to Kansas City where he's developed into a leader on and off the field.

Moved from third base to left field during a 2010 stay with Triple-A Omaha, Gordon in 2011 won the first of three Gold Glove Awards at that position. And last year, he was on the American League All-Star team for the first time.

Gordon's pro career has caught fire and it all began in the AFL.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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