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Gritty, gutty grinder Adam Eaton says he is ‘living the dream’

Updated: July 21, 2014 4:14PM

MINNEAPOLIS — Ask Adam Eaton how he’s doing, and he’s very likely to respond with “living the dream.’’

But here’s the thing. It’s a ­sincere answer from the White Sox ­center fielder, who fully appreciates his status as an every-day player in his second season in the major leagues.

“I am,’’ Eaton said before the Sox’ 4-2 loss Thursday against the Minnesota Twins in the first game of an 11-game road trip. “If you ask anybody in my family who knows me, they know the odds have never been with me as a 5-8 mid-major college player who never made first-team [all-conference] in high school and college. The odds are completely against me, so I feel very blessed every day to play this great game.

“I am truly living a dream every day. I am thrilled to be here.’’

Even though he has toned down his full-throttle, max-effort sprints to first base on routine groundouts as a means to conserve his body over the course of a 162-game schedule, Eaton personifies that gritty, gutty grinder type who has set the tone for a team that is ­becoming known for playing hard from start to finish.

“For me, when the national ­anthem starts, I always think about my childhood and the people who have helped me play,’’ he said. “I’m from a military family, and it sounds corny, but it reaches into my heart and reminds me that I’m blessed to play this game. This is not something to take for granted. You’re playing baseball for a living.’’

Joe Mauer broke a 2-2 tie with an RBI double in the eighth against Sox reliever Jake Petricka, who gave up singles to Danny Santana and Brian Dozier to start the inning. Kurt Suzuki scored Dozier with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

After a 2-hour, 6-minute rain ­delay, 30-year-old Twins right-hander Yohan Pino started off his major-league career by striking out Eaton and retiring the first five Sox he faced. Eaton had a key hit in the Sox’ two-run third, a slap hit-and-run single to left that put Alejandro De Aza on third. After Gordon Beckham walked to load the bases, Conor Gillaspie’s single drove in De Aza and Eaton to give the Sox a 2-1 lead. Beckham was thrown out trying to get back to second on the throw in from center fielder Sam Fuld, taking some steam out of the inning.

After that, Pino, the oldest player to make his debut as a starting pitcher for the Twins, retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced.

Jose Quintana pitched seven ­innings, allowing a home run to Josh Willingham in the second and an RBI single to Mauer in the third. He gave up six hits and one walk and struck out six.

Eaton is batting .272 in the leadoff spot after going 1-for-4. He has reached base safely in 14 of his last 26 plate appearances and in 14 consecutive games after battling through a 3-for-35 run that coincided with some minor leg issues.

Living the dream? You bet. Eaton said it’s one that started early on.

“When I started to love the game and really get into it, it was at age 8, 9 and 10 when they had ‘Sunday Night Baseball,’ ’’ he said. “I always went to church on Sunday morning and we had church on Sunday night, and whenever you came home, it was religious time for me and my dad to sit down and watch baseball. [Hall of Famer and TV analyst] Joe Morgan was a technical guy who would always teach me and my dad something. I thought it was great that I could learn something about the game watching baseball.’’


Twitter: CST_soxvan

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