The Ecks Factor: David Eckstein

In 2002, a dashing 27-year-old shortstop named David Eckstein received a special invitation  dinner at the White House with President George W. Bush. He did what any single, all-American guy would do; he took his mother, Patricia, as his date. In a private conversation, the President told the mother,” I will always hold up the integrity of this office; that’s why I like your son so much. David plays the game with such integrity.”

From his early days as a Harrisonburg Turk in 1995-96 to a member of the 2002 World Series Champion Anaheim Angels, David Eckstein has based his life on integrity and determination. As a walk on at the University of Florida, David became a fixture at second base, as the team captured 3rd place in the 1996 College World Series. Signed by the Boston Red Sox in the 19th round of the 1997 draft for a mere $1,000.00, he played flawless defense at second base in his first three minor league stops. Batting better than .300, Eckstein worked his way onto Bostons 40-man roster in 2000. Following spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, he was assigned to Triple A Pawtucket. Read more

The late bloomer: Jesse Foppert

The 2003 San Francisco Giants top minor league prospect is non other than 2000 Turk alum Jesse Foppert. Foppert was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the 2001 draft. It took Foppert only one short year to move his way up to Triple A ball through the Pacific Coast League. The 66, 210-pound right- hander, logged remarkable 109 strikeouts in 79 innings with the Fresno Grizzlies. He led the minor league with impressive 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

To have such a remarkable record in only one season is amazing but even more so is that Jesse didnt become a pitcher until his senior year at the University of San Francisco. USF head coach Nino Giarratano noticed something special about Fopperts throw from his position at third base across the diamond to first. In a discussion with Jesse and his father, Coach Giarratano, shared his opinion of what it would take for Jesse to make it in professional baseball. The idea was to turn Jesse into a pitcher. Read more

Big man on campus: Jon Rauch

In the spring of 1998 Turks owner Bob Wease, took a chance on signing an unknown RHP from Morehead State University to come and play for the Turks that summer. From the day that Jon Rauch arrived in Harrisonburg, the 6’10” 220 lb. pitcher made his presence known. Rauch who was quickly tagged “Lurch” (for the butler from the TV series “The Addams Family”) by his fans, proved to be an intimidating figure on the mound as his new namesake. Read more

Speed at the top: Juan Pierre

Juan Pierre, a Turks outfielder in 1998, has now become a World Series champion. Pierre, a Mobile, Alabama native was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1998 and made his major league debut in 2000. Upon entering the majors Pierre hit in 16 straight games, the longest stretch of any player first entering the majors. In 2001 Pierre competed in his first full major league season as a centerfielder and leadoff hitter for the Rockies. During the season he led the team in stolen bases, with 46, becoming only the second player in team history to steal more than 40 bases. The 46 stolen bases tied him for the National League in steals and placed him third in the majors. Pierre’s 2001 batting average was .327, seventh in the majors. In 2002 with the Rockies, Pierre stole 47 bases and committed only two fielding errors all season allowing him to attain a .995 fielding percentage, the fifth best in the majors. Read more

First-round pick: Cliff Pennington

With the 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft the Oakland Athletics select Cliff Pennington from Texas A&M University in College Station. After three successful seasons with the Aggies, Penning decided to forego his senior year and enter the MLB draft. He concluded his career at Texas A&M batting .345 with 115 RBIs and an OBP of .416. Defensively, Pennington added 223 putouts and an astonishing fielding percentage of .921. Read more