The D-backs' Adam Eaton is making a career of overcoming expectations.
The 5-foot-8 outfielder, a 19th-round pick out of Miami (Ohio) University in 2010, has done nothing but hit since he first took the field as a pro with Rookie-level Missoula that summer. In 319 career Minor League games, Eaton has compiled a remarkable .355/.456/.510 line with 98 stolen bases. Last year he led all full-season Minor Leaguers in batting (.375), hits (198), doubles (47), runs (130) and ranked second in on-base percentage (.456) in 130 games en route to being named MVP of the Pacific Coast League. Not bad for a guy who was the 571th player chosen in his Draft class.
Eaton came into camp this spring with a strong claim on the Arizona center field position, and though exhibition numbers can be misleading, his are right in line with his history: .370/.362/.522 through 14 Cactus League games. We spoke with Arizona's No. 5 prospect as he geared up to play the Brewers on Wednesday night.
MiLB.com: You homered the other day off the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija -- is it true that you almost caught teammate Trevor Cahill on the bases before he got to home plate?
Adam Eaton: It doesn't really happen all that often, but I figure that no one wants to watch me trot around the bases. The games are long enough as it is -- my philosophy is to get around and let the next guy do his thing.
MiLB.com: You've come into camp as the reigning Pacific Coast League MVP and with a great chance to lock up the Diamondbacks' starting center field job. You're hitting as well as ever in Spring Training, so it doesn't seem like you're feeling much pressure.
Eaton: The way I look at it is that I'm not supposed to be here. I was a 19th-round Draft pick, never a big prospect. I'm excited to be here and getting a shot at the Majors, but I haven't changed anything about the way I prepare or play the game. There hasn't been any pressure.
MiLB.com: Apart from your great hitting, you've been putting up unreal on-base percentages -- .456 over 319 career Minor League games. Included in that is all the times you've been plunked -- 20 times alone last year. Is getting on base by any means something you focus on?
Eaton: As a leadoff guy, definitely. I think my stance is probably part of why I get hit -- my hands go up and my butt goes out, a little like Derek Jeter's stance maybe -- but I don't mind taking one for the team. It only stings for a little bit, and getting on base means you can score.
MiLB.com: Had you ever played in a dome before arriving in Arizona late last season? How big an adjustment is playing the outfield in the Majors?
Eaton: It's a big adjustment for sure. The parks have all these nooks and crannies you've never seen before, like the outfield wall in San Francisco, and figuring out how the wind affects the ball with the roof open vs. closed is new. Just the fact that big league stadiums have second decks, which you don't see in the Minors, can make the ball react differently.
MiLB.com: Over the weekend, the Cubs' David DeJesus beat the team's video guy, Nate Halm, in the finals of a 64-player bunt tournament. I understand you and Halm played together in college -- were you surprised at his success?
Eaton: Not at all -- he was always known for being a great bunter. It was a great story. I've been trying to spread the word about it with friends from college, but I haven't had a chance to talk to Nate yet. We used to hang out a lot -- he's a great guy. He was our backup catcher at Miami -- great defensive catcher and really adept at the little things like bunting, moving the runner over. It's too bad he didn't win, but it was great to hear.
MiLB.com: Is it true that you've accidentally gotten licensing royalty checks meant for former pitcher Adam Eaton?
Eaton: Just one time, last year in Spring Training. This guy handed me six checks for maybe $20,000 each, and my eyes just lit up until I figured out what was going on. We've been confused before, so I'm kind of used to it, but the confusion doesn't usually involve large checks.
MiLB.com: I understand you got married this past offseason. How is married life treating you so far?
Eaton: Married life is awesome. My wife, Katie, was an athlete in college as well -- she played softball -- so she knows the grind of playing. It's been unbelievable having her support.
MiLB.com: Does she ever offer advice on your swing?
Eaton: I was talking with Goldy -- Paul Goldschmidt -- about this the other day actually. His wife, Amy, is an athlete too. Both she and my wife are always on us about things like, "Why did you miss that cutoff man?" or "You've got to move that runner over there." I think a lot of athletes seek out other athletes as partners; they have an extra understanding of each other's experiences. I know it's been great for me.
MiLB.com: You wore No. 4 in college and have had a series of other numbers before winding up with 6 on the D-backs. How did that happen?
Eaton: I have no idea! My numbers were always 2 and 10, but when I was called up Aaron Hill and Justin Upton had them, so that was out. I think they were originally going to give me No. 1, but we were on the road in San Francisco when I was called up and I guess they didn't have a 1 with them. Stephen Drew had been traded, and I think they just tore his name off the back of a 6 jersey and gave it to me. It's all cool with me.
MiLB.com: You grew up in Ohio, kind of in between Cleveland and Cincinnati and not very far from Detroit even. What was your favorite team and who were your favorite players when you were a kid?
Eaton: I was totally a Tribe fan. My dad grew up right outside of Cleveland, so they were always my team. I especially loved those late-'90s teams, with Kenny Lofton, Travis Fryman, Omar Vizquel, Sandy Alomar, Manny Ramirez ... Charles Nagy was there, and now he's our pitching coach with the Diamondbacks. Kenny Lofton was probably my favorite, because he was the type of player I wanted to be like.