SPRINGFIELD — Adam Eaton wakes up every day wondering if it’ll be the day he gets called up to the big leagues. Everyone in Triple-A does.
Eaton’s so close now that it’s not a question of whether he will get promoted from the Reno Aces to the Arizona Diamondbacks, but when — sooner if an injury opens a spot or later when rosters are expanded in September.
“It’s impossible to keep it out of your mind,” Eaton said. “At the same time, you go do your job every day. You leave it up to the Diamondbacks. They know when the right time will be.”
In the last 25 months, the former Kenton Ridge and Miami University center fielder has transformed himself from a little-known 19th-round pick into one of the top prospects in the game. He ranks second in the Pacific Coast League in hitting at .379 entering the weekend and will play in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday.
Eaton has exceeded all expectations — except maybe his own — by continuing to hit and perform, no matter the level or the quality of the opposition. He hit .385 in Single-A Missoula in 2010 after being drafted that June and .318 last season, splitting time between Single-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile.
Eaton hit .300 in 11 games in Mobile in April before getting the call to Reno, where he has been spectacular. He leads the league in doubles (29) and runs (87) and ranks fourth in stolen bases (25).
Reno manager Brett Butler, a former major league center fielder whom Eaton is often compared to — they’re both center fielders under 6-foot — praised Eaton last week.
“He’s a unique animal,” Butler told FoxSports.com. “He’s got this drive and determination that the little guys have. He’s going to start the engine on the club. He’s going to be in the big leagues in a short period of time, and when he gets up there and you give him a chance to play every day, he will never come back. He’ll be up there, in my opinion, for 10 or 15 years.
“He adds that enthusiasm to a club at the top of the lineup and gets things going. It rubs off on everybody else, and you can see it.”
Talent will only get you so far. Eaton continues to work at making himself better.
“I’m just continuing to learn day in and day out,” he said. “As crazy as it is, you learn something every day from this game that you haven’t learned before.”
Eaton doesn’t depend on film — of his own at-bats or of opposing pitchers — like some players.
“I go from memory and talking to people,” Eaton said. “I can’t stand film. I feel you can teach yourself too much and it takes away from the game and beauty of baseball. I love talking baseball. All I need before the game is to see a pitcher’s release point, what he likes to throw and where he likes to throw it.
Eaton also credits the players around him in the lineup. The only player in the Pacific Coast League having a better season is his teammate and fellow Triple-A All-Star Jake Elmore, who’s hitting .387 in the No. 2 hole behind Eaton. First baseman Ryan Wheeler, the third hitter in the lineup, also made the Triple- A All-Star Game.
“It’s easier when you have guys around you who really understand the game,” Eaton said. “We all push each other.”