Taking Off In Anaheim Hyperkinetic shortstop David Eckstein has given the Angels a lift

August 19, 2001

If you believe the adage about variety, David Eckstein's game-day
diet is severely lacking in spice. For breakfast Eckstein, the
Angels' rookie shortstop, always eats a stack of pancakes. ("I
just like pancakes," he says.) For lunch, four hours before game
time, he downs a plate of teriyaki chicken and pasta. "I can't
eat anything heavy before a game," says Eckstein, 26, who went to
the monotonous menu a few years ago, when he was in the lower
reaches of the Red Sox system. "This is the only thing I can eat
enough of to have enough energy during the game."

It's easy to see why the carbo loading is necessary: The
diminutive--his height is generously listed as 5'8"--and
hyperactive Eckstein bounces around the field like an overheated
molecule. His small-ball approach sparks Anaheim from the top of
the batting order. Through Sunday he was fourth among American
League leadoff hitters (minimum 50 starts) in on-base percentage
(.347), and among the league's rookies he was second, to the
Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki, in hits (118) and third in runs (61). He
was also tied for the league lead in being hit by pitches (15)
and was second in sacrifice bunts (12). Eckstein was batting .285
and had 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. "He's a scrapper--does
everything he can to get on," says Angels hitting coach Mickey
Hatcher. "I know he pisses off a lot of pitchers."

Then there's the way Eckstein sprints to and from his position
every inning, a display of enthusiasm that, along with his
pint-sized frame, baby face and close-cropped red hair, reminds
you of a Little Leaguer. Moreover, before every at bat, he
engages in a frenetic on-deck routine: He swings a pair of bats
around his head and sometimes jumps up and down as he swings,
making it appear as if he has helicoptered himself off the

Six months ago Eckstein, whom the Red Sox selected out of the
University of Florida in the 19th round of the 1997 draft,
figured he would spend this season windmilling bats in the minors
again. Anaheim had plucked him off Boston's 40-man roster last
August when the Red Sox tried to sneak him through waivers.
Though the Angels seemed set at second (Eckstein's natural
position) with Adam Kennedy, they claimed Eckstein, who had hit
better than .300 in three of his four seasons in the minors.

Then, when Kennedy broke a finger midway through spring training,
Eckstein got his chance. Filling in at second during camp,
Eckstein impressed manager Mike Scioscia with his grit and
enthusiasm and became the Opening Day starter. Eckstein performed
so well--.313 average with a .389 on-base percentage in April--that
Scioscia moved him to shortstop after Kennedy returned nine games
into the season. While Eckstein's professional experience at
short was limited to about 20 games in the low minors and his
lack of stature doesn't fit the present prototype for the
position, he has played solidly, with nine errors in 89 games
through Sunday. Says Scioscia, "He's been tremendous."

That hasn't stopped teammates from heckling Eckstein for his
on-deck calisthenics, boring diet and diminutive stature. "I get
'batboy' comments a lot," he says. He's quick to add, however,
that he has yet to be stopped by a stadium security guard who's
reluctant to believe Eckstein is a big leaguer. "I just walk in
like I belong," he says, "and no one stops me."

Eagle (-2)
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