As the White Sox’s captain was preparing for his final season at his private North Scottsdale batting cage this winter, he invited fellow Scottsdale resident Adam Eaton to join him.
Forget the fact that the two barely knew each other and that their individual style of play is nothing alike, Konerko saw the opportunity to welcome aboard a new teammate and didn’t hesitate to bring him into the fold.
“It was great; he invited me out to his place a little bit, I think three or four times,” Eaton said. “I really enjoyed getting to know him. His swing too, and as a ballplayer and how he goes about his business, is something special, even at this stage of his career. He’s very focused on what he needs to get done.
“It was an honor for him to invite me out there, just to get to know him in a more on a personal way than in the cage.”
“He just does everything well and he’s a really good athlete,” Konerko said of Eaton. “I’m kind of excited to see a guy who wants to be a true leadoff hitter, that type of role. We haven’t had that all the time. We’ve had spurts of it here and there with some guys. I’ve seen him the last couple of springs with the Diamondbacks and was really impressed.”
Not only did Konerko rave about Eaton during his first day of spring training, he also had good things to day about the Ohio native last month at SoxFest.
“I’ve only known him for a short period of time, but it’s like almost a father figure saying he’s approved of you,” Eaton said. “I’m very proud to hear that from him and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
And it hasn’t taken long for Eaton to see the extremely analytical side of Konerko, the one that gets the five-team All-Star plenty of ribbing from his teammates when he breaks down at-bat after at-bat when he returns to the dugout.
“Oh yeah, if he hits a home run, he’s still analyzing it,” Eaton said. “He’s very hungry and only thirsting for more.”
Despite their differences, Eaton has already taken something from Konerko’s approach.
“You talk to Paul and he’ll tell you that he’s not the strongest man in the world,” Eaton said. “He’s hit home runs on finesse and putting the bat on the ball correctly. Anybody can learn from that. ... He does approach the ball correctly, hand direction, body, how he gets his body in the right position and any shape and size can learn from that.”
As for that father-figure thing, Eaton was asked if he might ever slip and call Konerko “dad.”
“I’ve actually called Gordon) Beckham) dad before,” Eaton said. “He is my father figure in my life. After batting practice, I said, ‘How did I do dad?’ He was like, ‘You did great son.”