Charlie Clifford, Columnist

Adam Eaton had grown accustomed to hearing: “You are good, but not tall enough for what lies ahead.”

Most questions these days for the Miami University alumnus and current Arizona Diamondback include the words “please” and “autograph.”

“Growing up as a diehard Cleveland Indians fan, Kenny Lofton was the autograph I wanted,” Eaton said. “He played all out every play. I tried to emulate his style playing whiffle ball all the time.”

And growing up in the Eaton household in Springfield, Ohio, baseball was simply an all-the-time activity.

“Baseball became a food for me, I was always hungry for it and always looking to learn something new about it,” Eaton said.

The only larger appetite for baseball in the house belonged to Adam’s dad, Glenn, a retired fire chief at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Glenn taught Adam at an early age that work ethic, not height determines the greatness of a baseball player.

“In the winter I was constantly with my dad taking batting practice when everyone else was not even thinking about baseball,” Eaton said. “He always told me you have to work for everything you get.”

Refreshingly enough, Adam never felt the pressure or the over the top mentality that so many young baseball players of psychotic baseball parents face today.

“My dad always kept it fun for me,” Eaton said. “I credit my love for the game and work ethic to him.”

Success at Kenton Ridge High School as a pitcher and outfielder led Eaton an hour and thirty minutes southwest to Oxford on a baseball scholarship.

“Adam definitely ruffled some feathers of the older guys when he came in as a freshman,” Miami assistant baseball coach Jeremy Ison said. “He was a confident kid, and his pesky approach to the game was not always accepted, especially by the veteran pitchers of the staff.”

Between Eaton’s sophomore and junior year a switch flipped and Mid-American Conference (MAC) pitchers became the ones upset with Eaton. Number four in Red & White went on to collect 75 hits and 11 home runs his junior season and was named a first team All-MAC outfielder.

The award however, turned out to take a back seat that year to a classmate in a KNH class: Sophomore Miami softball player Katie Osburn.

“He took me on our first date to Smokin’ Ox and we went to hit together later that night and the rest was history,” the now Katie Osburn Eaton said.

When Adam graduated in the spring of 2010 with a degree in Sports Studies, both knew the toughest times were ahead. Off to Missoula, Mont. went Adam, and back to Oxford for senior year went Katie.

“Eight months after we started dating, he was shipped off before I even knew what happened!” Katie Eaton said.

For the next two years, a compact 5-foot-8 and 185-pound Adam Eaton barely had time to grab his checked bags at the latest airport terminal before being handed a ticket for a new home, a home closer to his childhood dream: the Major Leagues.

First, there was a call from the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 19th round of the 2010 MLB draft. What lied ahead for Eaton in the eyes of most major league scouts was a career of minor league baseball, a career that could have made it to the big leagues if it had not been for one roadblock: 5-foot-8.

“My idol Yogi Berra was always the smallest guy on the field and he always kept it fun which has been my goal forever,” Eaton said. “I never worried about my critics.”

Eaton had fun and found success right out of the gate in 2011 as he collected all-star honors in the Pioneer League and California League, finishing the season with the fourth highest on base percentage in the minor leagues. As the 2012 season approached so did a call up to “AA” in Mobile, Ala. After 11 games, Eaton found himself on the move again, this time to Reno, Nev.

The only problem was that the Reno Aces play in the “AAA” Pacific Coast League, the toughest league in all of the minors. Scouts across baseball surely had heard about the energizer bunny that was roaming outfields and speeding around base paths for the past year, and they thought Reno was certainly the place where Eaton would come back to reality.

In reality, Eaton tailed 186 hits, 119 runs and 38 steals, concluding with a Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player trophy.

The award again took second place that summer as Katie finished her senior year at Miami and moved to Reno to live with her future husband.

“My career with my wife is the longest and most important career I will have,” Eaton said. “One of the best decisions I have ever made was going to Miami and meeting her.”

In the meantime, the doubting baseball scouts got quiet, and Arizona Diamondback manager Kirk Gibson picked up the phone.

On Sept. 4, 2012, Adam Eaton was officially a major league baseball player.

“I told Adam when he got drafted that I would be there when he made it to the big leagues,” Ison said. “He calls me and I am so pumped for him, the only problem is the game was the next evening in San Francisco!”

Twenty-four hours later Ison and former RedHawk baseball head coach Dan Simonds finagled their way to AT&T Park and took in Eaton’s debut, a two-hit effort and a Diamondback extra inning victory.

Looking back on Adam Eaton’s 2013 season, his first full year in the majors, parallels can be drawn to his freshman year at Miami. A strained right elbow kept Eaton on the disabled list until mid-July. Eaton finished the season, playing in 66 games, with a .252 batting average.

“It was a tough season with the elbow injury,” Easton said. “Obviously I was not the only injury on the squad, we never managed to get everyone playing together.”

Staying healthy and on the field is Eaton’s goal for his sophomore season in Arizona.

“It is tough to alter the way I play because I have been playing that way my whole life,” Eaton said.

An aspect no one will ever ask Eaton to change: His love for the game.

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