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.
Although Boston waived Eckstein in 2000, determination coupled with a bit of good luck found Eckstein finishing out the season with a .346 batting average with the Anaheim Angels, Triple A Edmonton team. Turning misfortune into opportunity, Angels 2nd baseman Adam Kennedy broke a finger, in 2001, opening the door for Eckstein. Getting a hit in every game, infield coach Alfredo Griffin kept Eckstein on a short stop once Kennedy returned to play.
In 2002 the cry of X Stein and Ecks Factor echoed about the stadium as this 27-year-old small wonder hit .293 and ranked 3rd in the American League with infield hits and 21 stolen bases. Racking up 107 runs, 63 RBIs and 44 walks, this former Harrisonburg TURK was coming into his own. Eckstein posted a number of records: led the American League with 14 sacrifice bunts, was hit by 27 pitches, the most in the Majors, and was the first player in Major League history whose first two career Grand Slams came in consecutive games.
Seeing his childhood dream become a reality, the Littlest Angel found himself on the biggest playing field of all. As the leadoff man, Eckstein had been the catalyst for his team all season and the World Series would be no different. Hitting .294 in post season, Eckstein went 20 for 68 with 9 runs and 6 RBIs. Playing the game with such love and integrity, as a World Series Champion he is a living testament not only to the glory of the game, but what hard work and determination can accomplish.
Though the spikes worn by Eckstein in the World Series are now in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the records he shattered are etched in stone, local fans will always treasure the opportunity they had to witness a rising star playing for their home team. The Harrisonburg TURKS are proud to have shared a brief moment in the journey that brought David Eckstein on the field of the World Series and to the White House steps.