Baseball's "Little Engine That Could"
Doubts. They started during his high school days. Scouts believed he was too small, too slow, and would never make it. He had to walk on at the University of Florida, despite earning all-state honors twice for Seminole High School in Sanford. Florida.
The Red Sox drafted him in the 19th round in 1997, but they cut him three years later. The Angels took a chance on him, and it worked to perfection. Two years later, he was a World Series champion. His journey had finally ended… or so he thought.
At just 5’ 7”, he is David Eckstein. The San Diego Padres second baseman is the epitome of hard work and scrappiness in Major League Baseball.
Eckstein’s big league career is a contradiction. He has never hit more than eight home runs nor driven in more than 63 runs in a year, yet he has been named to two All-Star teams. His success relies on timely hitting and a high baseball IQ. His walk-off grand slam to beat the Blue Jays in early 2002 was considered a catalyst in the Angels’ 99-win season.
In addition, Eckstein been just as clutch in the post-season. He went 4 for 5 with three doubles in Game 3 of the 2006 World Series to lift St. Louis over the Tigers. The Cardinals went on to win the championship, and Eckstein was crowned World Series MVP. Though, in typical Eckstein fashion, he could not drive the Corvette which came with the award (Eckstein cannot operate a stick shift). He had to give the car away.
After the 2007 season with St. Louis, Eckstein signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was slated to be the starter, but was deemed expendable due to a crowded infield. Eckstein was later shipped off to Arizona, where he finished a frustrating 2008. The following offseason, scouts began to declare Eckstein’s career to be winding down. The doubts had returned stronger than ever.
Eckstein was then signed by San Diego to play second base, a position he had rarely played in the majors. Scouts viewed the Padres as the final stop for the "little engine that could."
Nevertheless, this season he has returned to World Series form. His energy and passion for baseball have returned along with solid statistics: a .321 batting average and five doubles through 15 games. Eckstein credits his success at the plate to work with Washington Nationals’ hitting coach -- and big brother -- Rick Eckstein.
In an era defined by power and statistics, Eckstein is the prototypical “throw back” player. Although he does not electrify scouts or fans with his extreme talent, he is the steady producer that leads teams to world championships.