- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rowand, the new White Sox center fielder, was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks last month in a three-way trade that also included the Los Angeles Angels. He patterns his game in two distinct molds, actually. There is the hard-nosed game from guys like Rowand and Lenny Dykstra, and then there is the pesky speed game of Kenny Lofton.
Eaton, who fancies himself as somewhat of a baseball historian, doesn’t just draw on former center fielders for inspiration.
“At a young age, I loved Yogi Berra,” Eaton said from SoxFest, referring to the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher. “I loved reading about Yogi and about how he went about his business and all the World Series he won.”
The center fielder comparison makes the most sense, though, and Rowand's hard-nosed play always struck a chord with Eaton, even before he became a member of the team that won its last World Series with Rowand in center.
“I met Aaron in fantasy camp down in Arizona and he seemed like an awesome guy, a great teammate,” Eaton said. “I hope I’m half the player that he was. I remember when he was with the Phillies running into that wall, and I hope I can bring the same type of mental and physical edge that he did.”
That catch came as no surprise to White Sox fans, who came to know Rowand for his hustle. And that's how Eaton wants to be known.
“I don’t see playing the game any other way,” he said. “I may be out of this game in five years because I’m playing so hard, but that’s the only way I can play and the only demeanor I can bring to this team.”
Eaton isn’t all headfirst dives and wall-crashing, though. The main reason he was so attractive to the White Sox was because of his propensity to reach base as a minor leaguer. During his standout season at Triple-A Reno in 2012, his .456 on-base percentage led the Pacific Coast League, as did his .381 batting average.
The White Sox will want Eaton to get on base by any means possible, but he knows he has to be careful not to press in order to meet needs.
“You just play your game,” Eaton said. “I think if you come in day-to-day and bring it every day, the numbers and everything will fall into place and the wins will fall into place. My job is, if I am the leadoff hitter for the Chicago White Sox come April 1 or whenever we open, the first pitch I’m just trying to get on base for this team.”
Well, maybe not the first pitch exactly. Another aspect of Eaton’s well-rounded game is to get deep into counts.
“That’s beneficial, for sure,” he said. “That’s what you want to do is to see pitches. You want to help the guys behind you. There’s a lot of talent and a lot of older guys behind me that can have a big advantage when you do see pitches. They are smart hitters, and when you can see pitches up front you can help them.”
Eaton is aware of the White Sox’s issues from last season, but said it’s not a concern for the current squad, and he doesn’t want to think about it. He sees all those big bodies behind him in the lineup and knows he will be scoring a lot of runs if his trend of getting on base continues.
“I was telling a lot of these guys, they look a lot bigger in person,” the 5-foot-8, 185-pounder said. “I know I’m small but I’m, like, shaking Adam Dunn's hand and I’m, like, ‘Holy ... this guy is huge.' He gave me a bear hug and I’m like hugging his chest. There are some big boys and guys that have a good idea how to get the job done. Hopefully I can be a piece of the puzzle and help the team win.”