Everywhere Adam Eaton goes, he makes a lasting first impression. From Springfield to Oxford to Missoula, Visalia, Mobile, Reno, Phoenix and now Chicago, Eaton has gained the favor of fans with his old-school style: dives into first base, leaping catches at the wall in center field, mad dashes to turn singles into doubles.
The same guy who helped lead Kenton Ridge to a state runner-up finish in 2007 and who starred at Miami University for three seasons now hopes to lead the White Sox back to the top of the American League Central after a last-place finish a year ago. Eaton has quite a bit more facial hair these days than he did in high school or colleger, but he’s the same player. He’s still ready to run through a wall in center field for an out.
Eaton hasn’t had any trouble adapting to the AL after an offseason trade from the Diamondbacks. Through 11 games, he was hitting .333 (15 for 45) with eight RBIs and an on-base percentage of .415 in the lead-off spot for the White Sox.
Eaton scored three runs Friday against the Indians to take over the Major League lead with 12. He also had his fourth straight two-hit game Friday and has scored a run or drove in a run in all but two games. In his first two at-bats Saturday, he walked and scored and then hit his first home run of the season.
“Just learning a new league is a little more difficult than I imagined thus far,” Eaton said Thursday, “but it’s coming along. I feel every time you see (a pitcher) and see them again, it’s going to be a little more familiarity with the team and how they play. It’s all going in the memory bank, and hopefully, I’ll get better.”
Eaton’s fast start has inspired comments like this from his new teammates:
“I know I have a very biased opinion,” White Sox pitcher Chris Sale told MLB.com on Friday. “But I think Adam Eaton is the most exciting player in baseball, in terms of every time he gets up to the plate, something is going to happen, whether it’s a close play, a bunt single, a double in the gap or a stolen base.”
Eaton’s also inspiring headlines like this:
“Adam Eaton: A strong serving of grit”
“Adam Eaton bringing energy to White Sox”
“Adam Eaton plays at his own peril”
That last headline came from a story pointing out the ways Eaton throws his body around on the field. It’s how he plays. He has always played that way. It’s one reason he overcame the odds and made it to the big leagues after being selected in the 19th round in 2010.
Eaton received a bit of criticism on Twitter last week from a White Sox fan worried he would injure himself. That’s a risk he’s willing to take.
“No one thought I could get this far,” Eaton wrote on Twitter. “Therefore I play everyday as if it’s my last.”
Eaton said he’s in a no-win situation when it comes to that type of criticism.
“If I take it easy, I get yelled at,” he said. “If I go too hard, I get yelled at. But I think the majority of the fan base enjoys that type of play. The front office, as long as I’m not killing myself out there, is appreciative. I’ll keep playing the way I am.”
Most fans on the South Side will enjoy that style.
“Watching the Sox game and @AdamSpankyEaton even chews gum at 110%,” one fan wrote on Twitter last week. “He was angry with that gum. I love the man roaming centerfield.”
The 25-year-old Eaton has made his share of highlight-reel plays since making his Major League debut in 2012, but he’s not yet a household name. Playing in Chicago might change that. His Twitter following has surpassed 20,000.
“I’m not surprised people haven’t heard of me,” Eaton said. “Hopefully, my play here will continue to sway the Chicago fans. I’m happy to be in this city and on this side of the city. The South Side is a great fan base, a hard-working, blue-collar fan base I can relate to quite well.”