Desire to prove doubters wrong drives Eaton
Former 19th-round pick may be D-backs' new center fielder, leadoff hitter
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tucked away in the notes section of an old iPhone is the fuel that Adam Eaton uses to drive that extra mile.
When you're a 5-foot-8, 19th-round Draft pick like the D-backs outfielder is, you're going to have plenty of people doubt your abilities and you have to work a little harder to get noticed.
So since graduating from high school, Eaton has kept that file in his phone filled with positive, motivating quotes, facets of his game he wants to work on and, oh yes, there is also a list of the slights he has endured.
"Just little things I'll pick up here and there," Eaton said. "Things that I may have seen along the way that may have rubbed me the wrong way that I want to remember. Some college recruiter said, 'If you have two guys with the same attributes, a smaller guy and a taller guy, you always go with the taller guy.' Stuff like that will get me through a workout or help me get to the cage to take a couple of extra swings."
Whatever Eaton is doing, it's working.
The 24-year-old moved steadily through Arizona's system, hitting a combined .355 in the Minors, including a .381 mark in 488 at-bats for Triple-A Reno last year. Eaton wasn't just a slap hitter either, as he compiled 46 doubles, five triples, seven homers and a .539 slugging percentage.
His performance earned him the Pacific Coast League's Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards, while the D-backs named him their Minor League Player of the Year.
"It's nice that I've had success in the Minor Leagues, but I've always said that those awards and those years don't even matter," Eaton said. "What matters is what you do here. You can have your name on the wall in the Minor League side, they can't take that away from you, but it doesn't matter because once you get here, you haven't done anything. I always tell my wife [Katie] that. She's so pumped and excited for me, but I tell her we haven't done anything yet."
It looks, though, like Eaton will get the chance to make his mark in the big leagues this year.
After watching him play 22 games last September before a fractured right hand ended his season a few days early, the D-backs think they've found their center fielder and leadoff hitter of the future.
And the future could be now.
"You could see the kind of element that he could bring to a team," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "We've never really had a leadoff hitter since I've been here, that's exciting. That changes the way our lineup goes, if you get a guy that's disruptive at the top of the lineup that can get on base, that can chop the ball, put pressure on the infielders, is very aggressive on the bases. We look at him and hope he can be that type of player."
As with any young player, it's a learning process and for Eaton, school is in session each day. Last week he spent a game standing next to Gibson in the dugout discussing game situations.
After he and Gibson would discuss a situation, Eaton would go to veterans Aaron Hill and Rod Barajas to get their takes.
"When I go back tonight, I'll write stuff down that I learned today and then I'll read it again and have a game plan for the next day," said Eaton, who is reading the book "Mental Toughness" by longtime baseball man Karl Kuehl. "It's important to have a direction and have a purpose and know that what you've learned in the past mentally and physically, you can revisit it. A lot of people will just go on and forget about it. I like to try to learn and continue to know what I did in the past so I don't do it in the future, or get better at it."
Eaton is using this spring to test his limits on the bases, and while he was a tad overaggressive in trying to take third against the Royals last week, his aggressiveness paid off against the A's on Sunday when he moved from second to third when the ball got away from the third baseman.
It was a case of homework paying off as Eaton remembered the coaching staff saying that A's pitcher Brett Anderson is not necessarily quick when covering bases.
"The game is much faster up here, so it's an adjustment period," Eaton said. "But I'm enjoying it."