In 2007 on his first opening day at Kauffman Stadium, then-third baseman Alex Gordon stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the first inning against Boston.
Curt Schilling struck him out, which nonetheless earned Gordon a standing ovation in anticipation of his future.
On Friday at Kauffman Stadium, left fielder Gordon came to the plate in the first inning with the bases loaded … and doubled in three runs as the catalyst for the Royals 7-5 victory before a crowd of 40,103 on a blustery, chilly afternoon.
That earned the relentless Gordon a standing ovation befitting his role as the tone-setting heart of this team, as the guy who’s now depicted on a billboard peeling off the vinyl with a face-first slide.
“You learn how to approach an opening day with experience,” he said. “You’ve got to enjoy it all, take it all in, but once the game starts you just take it like another game. Not try to do too much, not try to amp it up any more than it really is. Just try to be the same guy.”
The same guy is the Royals’ “Superman,” as first baseman Eric Hosmer referred to him when he wondered for whom a throng of media was waiting after the game.
Yet Gordon was but one of a number of factors in the Royals’ semi-urgent win to tap a reset button after their exasperating 0-2 start to this much-anticipated season. This was merely the home opener, yes, but why couldn’t it be seen as more?
“It is just one game. But at the same time, you want to give the fans something they’re going to see for the whole year,” said Hosmer, who was two for four with a double and put on a defensive spectacle that honored his Gold Glove.
So as the Royals try to top their best season since 1989 with their first playoff berth since 1985, they hope to lather, rinse and repeat a lot of what they did Friday.
That formula included the table-setting at the top of the lineup by newcomers Nori Aoki (three for four with a walk) and Omar Infante (three for five).
“That’s why we made those additions,” manager Ned Yost said.
It featured their now customary fine starting pitching, this time by Jeremy Guthrie. He wasn’t as on as James Shields or as dominating as Jason Vargas earlier in the week.
But Guthrie now is 21-15 with the Royals after going through four straight losing seasons in Baltimore and starting 3-9 with Colorado in 2012.
Guthrie’s skill set, Yost said, was less suited to the quirks of altitude in Colorado than it is conducive to cavernous Kauffman, where simply throwing strikes and letting the ball get in play is a good thing.
And that’s particularly so because of the Royals’ tremendous defense, enhanced now by second baseman Infante and right fielder Aoki.
It was on display again Friday, perhaps most so on a double play started by the rangy Hosmer and on Gordon’s assist to Alcides Escobar to Salvador Perez to nail Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez at the plate.
“That wasn’t me; that was all Esky right there,” Gordon said. “That’s what’s so great about having Escobar. You just make a good throw and he’s going to do the rest.”
And then there was the bullpen, the best in the American League a year ago.
It had a bit of an uneven week in Detroit, on the hook for both losses. But on Friday, it gave up two hits and no walks and struck out five in 31/3 innings, highlighted by the dominance of Wade Davis and Greg Holland at game’s end.
What it all means isn’t much clearer yet than it was when the Royals lost their first two games, of course. There are 159 of these to go.
It was no time to panic even if they had lost again Friday. Just the same, it would have been time to wonder a little … and thoughts might naturally have wandered to all the trials of the recent past.
Most of those seasons have been sabotaged by either a devastating April or May. So the first order of this early season is first do no harm, and the Royals took a step in that direction Friday.
“That’s what makes a good team, when you can bounce back from tough losses, and we did that a lot last year in the second half,” Hosmer said. “As a group, it says a lot … (when) you have the ability to bounce back.”
Triggered and symbolized by the guy who’s been through it all with the Royals, Gordon, and the contrast from his debut to his present.