Wednesday, 27 July 2011 15:27

Baseball helps Gordon recover from tragedy

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Baseball hasn’t just been a way of life for Swift Current Indian centrefielder Max Gordon; it has helped him move on and continue living.

During his senior year in high school, the Ashland, Ore., native was left laying on the concrete with collapsed lungs struggling to breathe after the vehicle him and his brother were in hit a patch of ice, fishtailed into the other lane and was T-boned by an oncoming vehicle.

Paramedics rushed Gordon to the hospital where they drilled a hole into his head to release pressure from the severe brain trauma he suffered. He was also in a coma for seven days.

His brother, Nichlaus, wasn’t so lucky as he did not survive the crash.

“A lot of people say I cheated death, which I guess is true,” said Gordon. “They found me on the street with collapsed lungs and trying to breathe. It was pretty ugly.”

Gordon’s battles weren’t over after he woke up from his coma. He had pneumonia for three months from the ventilator they put in a feeding tube. The pneumonia also caused him to lose 25 pounds and 20 per cent of his muscle mass. 

After recovering from his injuries, excluding the short-term memory loss that still plagues him, Gordon knew he had to continue playing baseball, but it wasn’t just for himself. He knew he had to do it for his late brother and his family, even though it would take a lot of work.

Gordon wasn’t recruited to any post-secondary institution out of high school, forcing him to find a new school to attend. Not only that, but he had to regain his strength, get used to making plays in centre field and get his swing back.

“We had a pretty hard loss in the family with my brother,” he said. “It has been good for my family for the last couple years for me to play ball. It has helped us keep our head straight and get past some things we had problems with.”

It took a lot of work, but the five-foot-six, 175-pound Gordon eventually found his game and a new school, Sierra College in Sacramento Calif. While there, he sported a .281 batting average and 20 RBI in 43 games as a freshman.

After one year there, however, he decided he wanted to come home and play for the team he cheered for as a child, the Oregon State University Beavers.

Even though he wasn’t recruited to play for the Beavers, which is perennially one of the top NCAA Division I teams, Gordon decided to try out for the team.

“I have some buddies on the Oregon State team and I said I’m tired of hoping so give me the coach’s number and I’ll see what happens, and it worked out,” he said.

“I worked really hard. I did everything the coaches asked. I worked hard on and off the field just trying to scrap my way on to the team. They just really liked the way I hustled and did everything I could to give myself an opportunity.”

Making the Beavers was a dream come true for Gordon.

Gordon struggled during his first season with the Beavers, who were ranked second in the NCAA for most of the season, with a .130 batting average and only two RBI in 46 plate appearances.

His numbers have greatly improved since joining the Indians. He’s third on the team with a .318 batting average. He also has 16 RBI this season while helping the Indians to a 23-15 record as of press time.

They improved to that mark after rebounding from a 4-1 loss to Regina July 21 and a 6-5 loss to Lethbridge July 22 with a 9-3 win over Lethbridge July 23 and a 13-4 win in Weyburn July 24. Gordon went four-for-six with a triple, three runs and three RBI in the win over Weyburn.

The Central Division champion Indians wrapped up their regular season July 27 and 28 with home games against Weyburn and Moose Jaw. Results weren’t available at press time.

They will likely play Medicine Hat or Okotoks in the first round of the playoffs. The dates of the games and opponents weren’t available at press time.

So far, Gordon has enjoyed his time in Swift Current and is hoping it has helped develop his skills enough so he can continue playing at Oregon State.

He knows eventually his time in baseball will come to an end, but he believes he and his family will now be able to cope with life without baseball. After all, his personality has changed since then and he is now closer to his parents.

“We’ve really kind of built a strong relationship,” he said. “I was always the quiet one when my brother was around because he was the big, loud, funny guy, but it has allowed me to perk up a little bit. We’re all still right next to each other the whole step of the way, but when I’m done with baseball, it’s not going to take a big toll.

“ … me and my dad still go fishing and hunting together and I do stuff with my mom. It will all work out.”

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