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Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
Eckstein silences the doubters
Anaheim shortstop David Eckstein
Eckstein's batting is greatly improved this year
BBC Sport Online's Kevin Asseo

David Eckstein can finally relax. He has made it to the big time and he is there to stay.

Eckstein is the shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Anaheim Angels, and his performance in 2002 is one of the main reasons his side is in the World Series.

He has established himself in the Major Leagues, but getting there was certainly not easy.

Because every time Eckstein arrived at a new location on his journey through the baseball world, people have looked at him and thought, 'This little man thinks he can play for us?'


I try to do the little things and to be consistent on a daily basis - that's my goal
David Eckstein
Anaheim Angels
And every time, Eckstein has proven he can.

The doubts have trailed Eckstein since he was a teenager, when as a diminutive lad he led his high school baseball team to the Florida state championship in 1993.

He then went to the University of Florida, playing as an unrecruited 'walk-on' among the highly recruited scholarship players.

By the time he was a senior second baseman at Florida he was one of the best players in the country, a first team All-American, and Eckstein carried the Gators to an appearance in the College World Series.

But his size - full grown by then, Eckstein was just 5ft 8in - kept a Major League team from drafting him until the 19th round of the 1997 draft, when the Boston Red Sox selected him.

An Angels fan shows his support for Eckstein
Eckstein's efforts have found favour with the fans
There are four levels of baseball's minor leagues and Boston, expecting little of him, sent Eckstein to the lowest level of their minor league system.

As you could probably guess by now, Eckstein excelled in the minors and moved up one level every year, getting better with each step up the ladder.

In 2000 Eckstein was playing for the Pawtucket (Rhode Island) Red Sox, one step away from the Majors.

The Red Sox rewarded his outstanding play by releasing him in August of 2000, mistakenly thinking this little man could never hit big league pitching.

The Anaheim Angels - maybe the one team that never doubted Eckstein in his life - immediately claimed him, converted him from a second baseman to a shortstop, and inserted him into their starting lineup.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Eckstein has been a pest at the top of the Angels' batting order, getting on base by any means necessary, playing almost flawlessly in the field, and becoming one of the most important parts of Anaheim's World Series puzzle.

Anaheim shortstop David Eckstein
Eckstein turns another double play
With his trademark modesty, Eckstein told BBC Sport Online he has absolutely no bitterness about having to take the long road to the Major Leagues.

"You have to prove yourself," Eckstein said. "I'm just thankful I've been giving the opportunity to play at every single level I've been to. It makes it special."

At a time when the names Garciaparra, Jeter, Rodriguez - big, powerful hitters - are the first mentioned when talking about shortstops, Eckstein is a different kind of player.

And that's just the way he likes it.

"If I go out there and try to play their style of game, there is no way I would be able to make it," he said.

"I just go out there and try to play my style of game. I try to do the little things and to be consistent on a daily basis. That's my ultimate goal."

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