5/9/2014 10:00 A.M. ET
Gordon's work ethic stems from Mom
Royals outfielder and three brothers learned to take the right approach
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Alex Gordon's gritty dedication to hard work is almost legendary. The Royals star has no doubt where he gets it -- from his mother, Leslie.
"She's been everything to me," Gordon said. "People always say my work ethic is great, and I really do think I get it from my parents. My mom worked night shifts as a nurse from 11 to 7, and then during the day she owned an antique store, which she loved to do and was another job that she had.
"So it was pretty much she was working all day, taking care of the kids. We always said, 'When do you sleep?' And she always said she didn't need sleep. So she worked very hard in giving me and my three brothers a great life, and we're fortunate to have her do what she did all of her life."
Leslie Gordon certainly had her hands full. She had four sons -- Eric, Alex, Brett and Derek. They all played baseball and just about everything else.
She's a registered nurse and has been working at Bryan West Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., for the past 37 years. Still has the antique shop, too.
"I worked all night," she said. "I had this antique business and I went to tons of baseball games. I guess God just gives you enough energy to do those things."
Leslie's older brother played baseball, at lot of it at the University of Nebraska.
"She grew up going to games," Alex Gordon said. "She had four boys that played baseball, so that's pretty much what she did. She went to baseball games all of her life and she's still doing it now with me and my youngest brother."
Last week, it was youngest son Derek pitching for Park University, a college in the Kansas City area, which was involved in postseason play at Springfield, Ill. And it was Alex at Kauffman Stadium, where she saw him receive his Gold Glove as the American League's best defensive left fielder.
"I'm pretty proud of my son. He's worked hard to get where he's at. I have four boys, and they all work hard. Alex is in the limelight, so we all know about him and what he does. But I do have three other boys who have worked just as hard and are just as successful, just in a different way."
Oldest son Eric is training to be a policeman in Lincoln, and third son Brett is an arena operations manager in Louisiana. Yes, Brett was named for George Brett -- the kids grew up as Royals fans, often making the trip to KC.
"We grew up coming to vacation at Worlds of Fun and always catching a ballgame at the same time," Alex said. "Obviously our favorite ballplayer was George Brett, watching him from the stands and everything."
Mostly, though, there were the games in Lincoln, and sometimes beyond.
"My kids just loved it. They all grew up with it, there was no choice I guess," Leslie said. "They always just played because their parents loved it, and that's what they did. That was just in their makeup because we had it in our families as well. That's what we did, and I wouldn't have changed it for one minute."
Alex was an advanced talent, even at a young age. When he was 8, his proud mother said, he made a team for 11-year-olds. He was always a kid who stayed late for extra practice.
"I don't know how many hours I spent waiting for him. He was always doing extra," Leslie said. "When you love something, it doesn't matter, you just do it. It doesn't ever feel like work, it's just what you do and that's what he thinks about his job now. What a great thing, to be able to spend your life doing what you love and get to do it every day. So he's pretty blessed. We all are, actually."
Alex's succession of teams went right through kids' leagues, high school and the Cornhuskers.
"She was very supportive. My dad was mostly the one that took us out and played catch and threw pitches to us. But she'd do it, too," Alex said, "and she was always the one taking us to games and she'd always be the one you'd hear from the stands cheering you on."
He's proud, too, of his mother's courageous battle with cancer, first breast cancer and then cancer of the appendix.
"When somebody tells you that you have cancer, it's pretty frightening, and breast cancer is such a prevalent life-threatening disease in women," Leslie said.
However, cancer of the appendix is extremely rare.
"Honestly, that was a bigger scare than the breast cancer," she said. "But God has given me a great deal of strength, and each time that I was diagnosed -- 10 years ago with breast cancer and then two years ago the appendiceal cancer-- I had a guardian angel. Both of the symptoms occurred early and, with my breast cancer, I had early, early detection and I've never had any re-occurrence of that since. That seemed actually very simple to me."
The appendiceal cancer, though, was "pretty scary" because it was at stage 4.
"Initially, they were pretty skeptical about my life expectancy, and I had to go through chemo and I've had three operations now for this," Leslie said. "Yet I've always felt like what a blessed life I've had. If I live three more years or if I live 30 more years or five more years, I'm pretty blessed. I think this is a path for you in your life.
"I trust in God. I'm a big advocate of health; I'm a nurse. I eat healthy and I exercise, but sometimes things are out of your control. I just have a lot of faith that God will lead me on the journey I need to be on, and that peace of mind has probably gotten me through all of this. I think it's been one of those life-strengthening events for me. It's made me a stronger person. Right now I'm doing well and I'm very grateful for every day that I'm here on this earth."
So is her family, which now includes four grandchildren.
"My older brother [Eric] has a boy and a girl, and I have two boys," Alex said. "She spoils them. She loves being around them."
Leslie Gordon considers herself "a pretty blessed girl" for many reasons.
"People ask me, what do you do on Mother's Day?" she said. "Well, I spent pretty much every single Mother's Day at a ballfield. That was the best gift anybody could ever have -- to watch your kids play ball. I still get to do that."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.