Nats hitting coach Rick Eckstein and his brother, Padres second baseman David Eckstein are two of the hardest working men in baseball.
The two grew up in Sanford, Florida, just outside of Orlando. They are the two youngest of five Eckstein kids. When they were younger, David would always tag along and try to keep up with Rick and his friends who were older. Because the Eckstein parents stressed the importance of "family first" the two brothers have always been as close as can be.
In fact, during their college days at the University of Florida in Gainesville, all five Eckstein kids were UF students at the same time, and they all shared a place to live. They also shared a car and had to work with each others' schedules to juggle all their transportation needs. They appreciated the opportunity to get a first rate education and they understood the financial challenges it put on their parents at the time.
David and Rick also shared the chance to play together on the baseball team there. They even played together in the College World Series semi-finals. The two leaned on each other a lot with baseball over the years.
While neither was very tall in stature (David is listed at 5'7" and Rick 5'8") they both have a lot of heart and determination, which is a tribute to the way Pat and Whitey, both teachers, raised them.
At times, when David struggled offensively in the big leagues, he spoke with his brother Rick who helped him make some adjustments and get back on track. Today, they both have reputations as being hard workers and solid citizens in baseball. Their positive attitudes are contagious.
David and Rick also share something that is unique to their family. They have healthy kidneys, while their siblings Kenny, Christine and Susan all have undergone kidney transplants after battling a hereditary kidney disease.
Both Rick and David offered to give up one of their kidneys to their family members, but they were advised not to in case, one day, one of their children needs a kidney.
Christine and Susan are doing, well but Rick and David told me their brother Kenny will need another kidney transplant soon. With this in mind, David makes a point to use his major league baseball player stature to speak out about the need for organ donations. In each city he's played in, he's teamed up with local organizations to spread the word.
Rick also wants people to know how important it is to carry a donor card or sign the back of your diver's license to become an organ donor. It's as simple as contacting your local department of motor vehicles. This has helped save the lives of two Eckstein family members already (Mom Pat was a match to give one of her kidneys to daughter Susan, while Kenny and Christine received transplants outside of the family) and it could make a difference with more.
So, while Rick and David prepare for another Nats-Padres matchup, the health and well-being of their brother Kenny weighs heavily on their minds, and with the help of baseball they continue to make a difference for him and others who need organ donations.