A year ago at this time, Adam Eaton had played in 35 games, and the Washington Nationals were in the midst of 10-game road trip featuring stops in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. The goal of winning the World Series would have been a distant dream for even the most optimistic of Nationals fans, considering they were 14-21 through May 7.
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Much has changed in the last 12 months. The Nationals did win the World Series on Oct. 30, beating the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 7 thanks in part to a two-run single by Eaton in the ninth inning. Of course, a spring without baseball — save for a couple weeks of spring training — has followed.
That’s why Eaton, a 2007 Kenton Ridge graduate who played three seasons at Miami University, finds himself spending so much time these days chasing after his two sons, Brayden, 4, and Maverick, who turns 2 next week, on a piece of property he bought last year south of Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Those guys are keeping me in shape,” said Eaton on Tuesday on the phone from his home in Brighton, Mich.
Eaton has no workout partner, other than his kids. He has no access to a gym. He’s keeping in shape while hoping for the return of baseball by getting creative. That often means clearing brush on his property or moving rocks — and, of course, watching the kids.
“There’s a little pond out there, and boys will be boys,” he said. “There’s a wooded area. There’s all kinds of things they can get into. We cut down a pretty big tree last week and started a fire with all the limbs. There’s a bigger pond, and it’s overgrown on all the sides, so we’re trying move some of that brush. Brayden helps. Mav just kind of watches. They love it out there. Anything to get us away from the house and get the kids outdoors.”
It’s hard to say how long the boys and Eaton’s wife Katie will have him around in Brighton. While there are reports baseball could return in late June or early July, no one knows for sure. That pretty much goes for everything related to the coronavirus pandemic.
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When baseball does return, teams may play without fans in the stands. Eaton experienced that five years ago in Baltimore when he was a member of the Chicago White Sox. Unrest in the city because of the death of Freddie Gray caused the Orioles to close the gates to fans.
Eaton called it the worst experience ever. Everyone wanted the game to be over with by about the third inning. He sees fans as a verbal force for the players. They get behind you at home and provide motivation — even if it’s in the form of jeers — when you’re on the road.
“To not have that there and to have the coronavirus hanging over your head, it’s going to be difficult,” Eaton said. “People don’t realize how tough it will be with no fans in a game of failure. It’s going to be lonely, that’s for sure. It’s going to be different.”
As hard as it may be, Eaton said it’s probably the only option if there’s going to be a 2020 season.
“That’s what baseball has come to realize,” he said. “All the polls say people aren’t going to feel real comfortable going to crowded areas until next year.”
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If there are no fans in the stands, Eaton knows the Nationals won’t get their World Series rings or raise a banner. They want to do that with everyone watching. While that’s understandable, it would also be a bummer because Eaton knows a number of his teammates will be free agents after this season, and the Nationals would have to pick up his option for him to return.
That’s a worry for another time. If or when baseball does return, the Nationals should have a strong chance to contend again because they return such a large portion of last year’s roster. Eaton liked the direction they were headed when baseball shut down in March.
“I think as a team we were all really ready to go,” Eaton said. “With the long season, we were all as healthy as we could be, which is nice. With some of those quick offseasons, sometimes that’s not the case. To go to the World Series, have a solid offseason and have all the boys come back healthy and ready to go, I don’t think many World Series champions can say that.”
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Until Eaton gets an official word from the Nationals and Major League Baseball, he will continue to “tread water” with his playing shape, while hoping he gets enough time to get in shape for game action. He thinks baseball will be cautious and give everyone enough practice time — a spring training of sorts in the summer.
“I think it’s going to be more time than a lot of people will like, but you’ve got to try to curve as many injuries as possible,” he said. “You’ve got guys sitting at home unable to do much. To throw us back in and give us two weeks (of training) would be a huge mistake.”
Until then, Eaton will continue to enjoy this unexpected family time. With his sons getting older, it’s harder and harder to leave. Brayden, especially, now understands his dad often has to leave and may be gone for up to two weeks.
“For him to have me around, I love it,” Eaton said. “It’s undisturbed quality time with him. I don’t have to go to work. Him and I and Mav just go and do things together. Family time has been huge and a focal point for us, and I’m trying to take it all in because it always seems like dad has to go to work.”“
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