Ever wonder why Adam Eaton races to first base after he draws a walk?
Why he runs around the bases like a cartoon combo of the Road Runner and Speedy Gonzales?
Or why he’s willing to give up his body by crashing into the wall to make a catch, even if his team is down 12-0 in the 9th inning?
“I put everything I have in this game because you never know when it’s going to be over with. You really don’t,” Eaton says. “You have to play every day like it’s your last.”
So when the White Sox outfielder goes to work, he puts on his uniform, soaks in the moment and appreciates what he has: a job playing baseball in the major leagues. He’ll never take it for granted.
“This is a game after all,” he says. “You‘re not going to enjoy this game if you’re not having fun. I always take that approach.”
Ask him about facing Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in back-to-back games, he won’t complain. He’ll sound more like an 8-year-old kid playing Little League for the first time.
“It’s going to be fun.”
You can’t teach hustle. You can’t teach height. That makes the vertically-challenged Eaton 1-for-2.
How tall is he? Adam goes into his locker and grabs his cleates to demonstrate.
“With these on, I’m about 5-foot-9, I think. With spikes on. This extra inch that it gives me.”
Still, he could dunk a basketball in high school. Says he could do it again now, but would need about three weeks to train. Don’t challenge him. He’d likely go out and do it to prove you wrong.
Eaton also has enough strength to break his bat over his knee, which he did in a fit of rage after striking out on Tuesday with the tying run on third base.
“For the kids at home, don’t do that,” he says about his bat-breaking incident.
When the White Sox needed more energy this offseason, they didn’t call ComEd. They went and traded for Eaton, who is his own individual power company, a baseball player with a battery that’s always fully charged.
But he didn’t start out that way.
“When I was very young, I was supposedly very quiet until I was about 4 years old, and I got tired of my brother beating me up. He’s a year older than I am,” Eaton says. “Then all of a sudden the tables turned and I became a spaz and a high-energy guy and tried to beat up my brother and try to get payback. It kind of continued through high school and college, and now here in the professional ranks.”
But it’s not easy to maintain that intensity over the course of a baseball season. The guy you see sliding into first base with his hair on fire isn’t the same person at home.
“Ask my wife. She tells everyone, ‘He seems really fast out there and is always on the go but when he gets home he becomes an 80-year-old man.’ And that’s true. I definitely save up the energy. In the morning, I don’t do much at all. After the game, I don’t do much at all. I come home and let the body rest and the mind rest.”
Critics of Eaton’s reckless game say that he won’t be able to stay healthy. That by going 80 mph all the time, he’ll eventually hit a wall and pay the price, which Eaton came close to doing this week while making a catch in left-center against Tampa Bay.
“The center field wall [at U.S. Cellular Field] is nice and padded,” he explains. “The right field wall is nice and padded. The left field wall, there’s some pads, but they’re located on the posts. I actually caught one [Monday]. It wasn’t as nice. I didn’t like that as much. It put me on my butt right away, but I’m getting familiar with them.”
While Eaton is getting acquainted with his new surroundings, so is his teammate Jose Abreu, the Cuban sensation who arrived in the United States not speaking a lick of English. But now, Eaton says Abreu is slowly starting to increase his vocabulary.
“He says ‘Thank you.’ He says ‘Good job.’ We’re teaching him ‘Sometimes that happens.’ I said that to him. He’s picked it up pretty well.”
When do you teach him to say ‘“Sometimes that happens?”
“You know, when you strike out with the bases loaded, hit into a double play. ‘Sometimes that happens.’”
And sometimes you’re the perfect spark plug to ignite an offense that last year blew a fuse.
He's helped turn the power back on.