Many thanks to Adam Eaton for stopping by to talk baseball with Next Level Ballplayer. Eaton was a left-handed hitting outfielder at Miami University before getting drafted by the D’Backs in 2010. In a little more than a year he has worked his way up to the Mobile Bay Bears AA squad while hitting at a (combined) .340 clip.
Today Eaton talks about adjusting to wood bats, his two favorite hitting drills from over the years, what gives him his mental edge, what physical adjustments the D’Backs have helped him make with his swing, why he deserved to get hit in a game last season, one of the greatest minor league stories you’ll ever hear, and more.
Ballplayer: Adam Eaton
High School: Kenton Ridge, Springfield, OH
College: Miami University
Draft: 19th Round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010
Minor League Honors: 2010 Short Season/Rookie All-Star, 2010 PIO Post-Season All-Star, 2011 CAL Mid-Season All-Star
What is the best baseball related lesson you learned early on that’s led to your success over the years?
When I was an early teenager, my uncle told me, “Sometimes you’ll eat the bear and sometimes the bear will eat you.” That really stuck with me and I’ve shared that with a bunch of my teammates over the years. Like a lot of ballplayers I’ve always struggled with failure, but you have to except it. It’s just part of the game.
What level of baseball has been the most difficult for you to adjust to?
Most difficult: Going from high school to college ball.
Second hardest adjustment: Going from high-A to AA. The pitchers in AA are just so much more consistent than I’ve ever faced before. I was wide eyed for a while, but have since been able to adjust.
What was the hardest adjustment for you to make when going from college to professional baseball?
Hitting with wood bats. It’s been the hardest, but it’s turned out to be a good adjustment for me. In college when you’re swinging aluminum you can take more risks and look to take big swings more often. With wood, I’ve had to calm my swing down and understand that the guys on the mound in the minors aren’t going to make as many mistakes as I saw in college. It’s all about making sure I don’t give away any at bats.
Every batter would like to not “give away at bats”. How do you actually go about doing that?
I just make sure it doesn’t happen! (laughing)… It’s all about developing a good approach and being consistent with it. I feel that mentally good hitters develop over time and continue refining an approach that works best for them. It’s not just physical stuff, it’s mentally putting bad ABs behind you and sticking to a consistent approach.
Have you made any physical adjustments to your hitting since starting in the D-Backs organization?
Yes. Shortly after I got there, our hitting coach, Jason Hardtke started working with me. Now he has me standing almost straight up and much more open than I used to be. I used to be hunched over. What that’s done for me is allowed me to “keep the lanes open.” If the hitting zone (where your hands and bat have to travel) is a highway, you want to keep the highway open. If your head or shoulder or whatever, goes into the highway, you have to take it out before your hands can get through. By standing up straighter, I’ve been able to keep my “highway” open and it’s served me well.
What’s been the best piece of hitting advice you’ve ever received?
Work smarter not harder. In spring training this year, hitting coach Andy Abad really drilled that into me. Some days you have to know your body and understand that baseball is a grind. You can’t be going in the cage and giving yourself blisters on an off day in the middle of the season. Some days you have to take off and let your mind rest from baseball. For me, I sum it up with- Know your body. Know what you need to do and when you need to do it.
Do you have a favorite hitting drill or drills that you really like and find yourself going back to?
Well there is really two. One I did in high school and one I started in college.
When I was in high school I loved the “Griffey Tee.” I might not be the most fundamentally sound hitter, but I feel like I have a good bat plain. I think one of the reasons for it is because in high school I used to hit off that thing every day. My high school coach, Tom Randall, who is one of the most respected baseball coaches in all of Ohio, used to put that Griffey tee in front of us every day and I would just take swing after swing off that thing.
In college (Miami University), Coach Dan Simonds was a big believer in the one arm hitting drills. He loved those short bats. A lot of pro guys, including myself, still do a lot of one are drills in pro baseball. It’s done wonders for me working on top and bottom hand one arm drills.
What gives you your mental edge when playing the game?
Probably my size and were I came from. I’m from the small city of Springfield, OH and I’ve always been a small guy. I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder and tried to prove everyone wrong. I’ve heard- “You’re too small to play college ball.” “You’re too small to get drafted.” “If you get drafted it’ll be as a college senior.” Mentally, my fuel is proving people wrong and playing for my family, my hometown, and Miami University.
Ok, I gotta ask about the Youtube video of you calling for time, not getting it, then hitting a Homerun and absolutely pimping it- What happened there?
Oh geeze. Well there’s a whole back story. It was like the 4th or 5th inning and the ump hadn’t been giving us time earlier in the game and he was being a jerk about it. The pitcher had been quick pitching us, but for that particular pitch he shook off his catcher like five times and was taking forever, so I said ‘Time. Time. Time please. TIME!’ For whatever reason, he didn’t grant it, so I got upset about it and said, ‘I’m going to swing as hard as I possibly can and just hope that the ball finds my bat.’ After I hit it, I was still in disgust. Once I got down to first base I started to run harder, cause I realized that the other team might think I was pimping it when in reality I was just mad at the umpire. My next time to bat with nobody on base, they drilled me. It was all just stupid. I’ll never do it again.
What are your best and worst experiences in minor league ball so far?
Well, I’d have to say they are one in the same. When I was in Rookie ball we had a bus ride from Missoula, Montana to Casper Wyoming which normally is like a 15 hour ride. We were driving through the mountains around 2am in the morning and apparently in Montana, they block entire roads off at night for hours at a time for construction stuff. We were told the ONE road we needed was going to be closed from 2-4:30am. We were forced to just sit and wait.
Because baseball players are the friendliest and most personable athletes out there, we decided to get out and look around. Next thing you know we got guys wearing hard hats, directing traffic on a side road, working the manual stop signs, flagging cars down to see where they’re headed, and just having an absolute blast- now keep in mind this is all at like 3 in the morning.
It turned out to be one of those moments I won’t forget for the rest of my life. We were so angry when we first got stopped and then ended up having a great time. We finally ended up getting into Casper around 11am, slept two hours and then headed to the park. All in all that was the best and worst moment in professional baseball so far.
Thanks for your time man. Best of luck continuing to eat bears!
You know what Franco- As frustrating as baseball can be, I’m having a blast!
Make sure to follow Adam on twitter @AdamSpankyEaton.