WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - When you’re the new guy on a new team, there are a variety of factors that can make the transition a daunting experience.
You have to find a new place to live. You’re probably going to spring training in a different location, perhaps in an entirely different part of the country. There are the logistics of a move - do you rent an apartment for the season or buy a house? - and players with families have to consider things like a spouse’s job, childcare and schools.
Among all of the changes that Adam Eaton faced when he was traded from the White Sox to the Nationals in December was how to continue his passion for raising money for cancer-related charities through Let’s Strike Out Cancer, a nonprofit started by Rockies pitcher Jason Motte to help those affected by the disease.
Turns out one trade led to another - with Eaton manning center field, shortstop Danny Espinosa was dealt to the Angels for a pair of minor league pitchers, opening up Trea Turner to move from center to short - and created the opportunity for Eaton to continue his relationship with Motte’s charity.
Eaton was announced last week as Espinosa’s successor as the Nationals’ K Cancer T-shirt model, and will be sporting the new shirt for the upcoming season as soon as they are produced. You’ll be able to order the Strike Out Cancer T-shirts here.
He’ll gladly trade the ubiquitous Mighty Mouse T-shirt that’s become a staple of the spring training clubhouse for a chance to positively impact the lives of children.
“We want to do anything in any way, shape or form that we can do to help - especially children - understand cancer and give them the strength to be cured and live as normal a life as they can,” Eaton said.
Each Major League Baseball team has a player partnering with Strike Out Cancer, which designated proceeds from K Cancer T-shirt sales to a charity of the player’s choice. Eaton’s charity is the Dragonfly Foundation, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based nonprofit that comforts and supports patients, their families and caregivers.
Eaton’s involvement the Dragonfly Foundation dates to when he was playing college ball at Miami of Ohio, about 45 minutes north of Cincinnati.
“My freshman year in college, I went to visit a kid that got struck by a pitch in the head,” Eaton recalled. “I visited him in the hospital, him and his family. His mom actually founded the foundation six months later (after) meeting another family in the hospital that was dealing with cancer. They formed the foundation and I’ve been close to the family ever since. Now they help children ... with cancer, from publishing books to help them understand when they lose their hair why they’re losing their hair to helping support families financially, be it be food, rides going to work, donating cars. They do a number of things.”
For the past several springs, while he trained with the Diamondbacks and White Sox in the Phoenix area, Eaton put on a celebrity bartending fundraiser with Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton. Speed Heals helped funnel money to the Dragonfly Foundation, and though he can’t reprise the event this spring because he’s in Florida, Eaton is trying to put together a new fundraiser that will occur near Washington later this season.
“I’m very involved in cars and I’m trying to form Cars With Coffee one Saturday morning, where we can have people bring their cars and have a car show and raise money for the Dragonfly Foundation,” he said. “When you change teams, the relationship with the PR department and our charity department really helps.”
So along with a myriad of changes in his life, Eaton is now tasked with getting the community relations folks with his new team up to speed with the charities that are most meaningful to him - and why.
“When you get to a new team, you try to make them aware of what’s important to you,” he said. “And all three teams I’ve been on are more than willing to help me raise money.”
It’s a side of a ballplayer that some fans really don’t consider, but most enjoy giving back to those in need.
“Not enough attention gets brought to the good side of athletes,” Eaton said. “And I would say 95 (percent)-plus really do a lot of charity work and try to give back to the best of our ability, whether it’s a camp, a charity of our choice, even our own foundations.”
Soon, Eaton will be going out for batting practice or taking a pregame warm-up catch. He will look into the stands and see the new Nationals K Cancer T-shirts. At Nationals Park and when the Nats are on the road.
“It’s very gratifying, especially to me, being as competitive as I am,” he said. “I enjoy seeing my colors shown.”
When he was with the White Sox, that meant a black-and-gray T-shirt. Now he’ll be searching out those new Nationals colors.
“To all 30 guys who are involved, just to see a K Cancer T-shirt is awesome because we know that the proceeds are going to a great cause,” Eaton said. “It’s such a great idea to sell the T-shirt because it’s such a great message and a great cause. To see the T-shirt, and know that you’re giving to charity - and to see other people in the ballpark with the same shirt on - it just gives you a warm heart feeling.”