CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you’ve followed Oregon State baseball this season, you’ve seen Max Gordon make some incredible plays out in center field. So what does it take to make catch after breath-taking catch?
“I just really have no regard for my body,” Gordon says,”so I just throw it all over the place.”
But there’s more to Gordon than his ability to throw caution to the wind. The senior has gone from walk-on to starting outfielder for the number three team in the country because of his incredible work ethic.
“He’s a spark plug that makes our team run,” starting pitcher Ben Wetzler says. “He’s a blue collar kid out of Ashland, Oregon and that’s what this university is all about.”
“I’m just a scrapper,” Gordon says. “Everything I do, it isn’t necessarily pretty, but it usually gets the job done.”
He doesn’t have the raw power of Michael Conforto. In fact, he has the lowest batting average of any regular Beavers player, but Gordon’s not in the line-up because of eye-popping numbers
“It’s funny, it always mystifies me why he plays,” head coach Pat Casey says.”I tell him, you can’t run, you can’t throw, you can’t hit, but he just finds a way to scrap and win. He’s a winner. We’ve tried everything to keep him out of the lineup and he won’t let us.”
“He brings intangibles that you can not measure by those six tools that you judge players by,” former Ashland head coach Don Senestraro says.
“All those Division I programs are looking for that guy that can be a top draft pick,” Ashland assistant coach Charlie Hall says, “but here Gordo comes in, under sized, under speed but just gritty as all and just has the toughness to go and do a great job for their program.”
If there’s one word to describe Max Gordon, it’s tough, not just the physical toughness to sacrifice his body for the team, but a mental toughness that very few players have.
In January, 2008, Gordon was involved in a crash on Highway 62 that killed his brother and nearly killed him.
“You get that call at two in the morning from the vice principal that says you need to get down to the hospital because one of your players may not make it,” Hall says.
Gordon not only made it, but two months later he was back on the field to play for the Grizzlies’ 2008 state championship team.
“When I went to visit him in the hospital,” Senestraro says, “he said, ‘Hey coach, don’t worry about it, I’ll be ready to go in game one.'”
“As he comes back from that, and works his way through therapy, and goes through a senior baseball season and wins a state championship as an all-state player, that’s just a testament to his character,” Hall says.
“It wasn’t easy for him,” Senestraro says, “but he had a great core of friends and a great supporting cast that helped him get through that.”
After winning the 2008 state championship in his senior season, Gordon played one year at Sienna College. Then he walked on to the Beavers baseball team. He’s had to fight for playing time, but now is not only starting centerfielder for the number three overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but he’s routinely getting national exposure for his catches in the outfield.
“It’s definitely surreal,” Gordon says. “It’s a crazy experience, just growing up in a small town of Etna, CA and playing in high school in Ashland, it’s pretty crazy. It’s almost kind of weird that I’m watching ESPN and seeing myself on there.”
“He’s just so thankful to be able to live his dream,” Senestraro says. “Not many people get a chance to do that.”
Now the Beavers centerfielder, who never gave up when many others would, has the chance to end a special college career with a national championship.