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White Sox

Emma: For Eaton, Full Speed Is The Only Way

White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Chris Emma mug Chris Emma
Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBSChicago.com,...
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By Chris Emma-

CHICAGO (CBS) — Fresh into his first year of high school, Adam Eaton stood at 4-foot-11 and barely 100 pounds soaking wet.

It was there, at Kenton Ridge High School in Ohio, where Eaton discovered himself as a baseball player. He wasn’t going to be a big, hulking slugger. His style of play would have to be different.

Eaton’s father, Glenn, shared some sound advice before his first prep baseball game.

“Play the game the right way,” Glenn Eaton told Adam. “Don’t do an injustice your team, yourself, your family’s name, the name on the front (of the jersey). Play every game like it’s your last.”

It’s something Eaton has carried since. A growth spurt never sprung. He stands at 5-foot-8, 185 pounds.

Eaton plays the game the same way as a Chicago White Sox as he did at Kenton Ridge High School.

“He brings that kind of little-man syndrome and attitude every day, and it rubs off,” White Sox first baseman/designated hitter Adam Dunn said.

Added outfielder Jordan Danks: “You look at him and see that’s the way everybody should play.”

The hard-nosed style of play led Eaton through the Diamondbacks’ system, where he made his MLB debut in 2012. However, he may have found a home in Chicago.

In one of Eaton’s first games at U.S. Cellular Field, he hit a routine roller to the pitcher. He sprinted at full speed down the first-base line, pushing his momentum forward as fast he can. He was gunned down at first and made his way to the dugout. Then, something caught him off guard.

Fans were on their feet, cheering and celebrating Eaton’s hustle.

“I’m like, ‘Dude, I just grounded out,’” Eaton recalled. “’Why are you cheering for me?’”

Such an oddity is something Eaton has grown accustomed to from the home crowd. His hustle is greatly appreciated by the White Sox crowd, and it has made him a  fan favorite in short time.

“It’s a great appreciation,” said Eaton, who returned over the weekend from a stint on the disabled list and is hitting .271 with a .352 on-base percentage from the lead-0ff spot. “It shows the intelligence of the fans, that they understand I’m giving 110 percent for them, for the city. I’m going to leave it all out there for them, because they deserve it. They don’t deserve half-assed effort.”

The ultimate example in the young season came with the White Sox down to their last out, trailing by a run in the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. Eaton hit a routine ground ball to second base, setting up the would-be game-ending double play. But the speedster barely beat out the throw to first base.

Two batters later, White Sox slugger Jose Abreu hit a walk-off grand slam to win the game. This wouldn’t have been possible without Eaton.

“He’s 110 percent all the time,” Danks said. “It’s fun to watch.”

The constant hustle may be a sight to White Sox teammates and fans, but not to Glenn Eaton. It carries from his message to a high school freshman preparing for his first baseball game.

“He still says the same thing for me today,” Eaton said. “So I continue to do it.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmmaScout.