Practice! Practice! Practice!
That’s the recommended formula for getting better and reaching full potential in nearly every athletic endeavor.
Baseball, however, is a somewhat different animal.
Sure, baseball players need to spend time in the batting cage refining their hitting skills. They need to field dozens upon dozens of grounders and fly balls, strengthen and sharpen their throwing arms and pitching motions, and make sure they’re in proper mental and physical shape to run the bases with both wisdom and abandon.
But the best way — perhaps the only way — to really absorb the complexities of the game of baseball is to play it. Take Adam Eskil for example.
A senior at DeSales High School this spring, Eskil is coming off a busy 2013 baseball season in which he played 24 games for the Irish, 20 for the Blue Mountain Merchants — DeSales’ summer team — and 43 for the Walla Walla Bruins Class AA American Legion team.
That’s 87 games in all.
“Adam reminds me a lot of Dave Meliah,” DeSales coach Kim Cox said, referencing one of his former star players. “I remember one summer when Dave played for our Merchants, the Milton-Freewater Black Sox and the M-F Twins. While other kids were whining about playing 40 games, Dave was playing close to 100.”
Meliah went on to stellar collegiate careers at Walla Walla Community College and the University of San Francisco, then played six seasons in the Texas Rangers organization and reached Triple-A before retiring from pro ball in 2004. He’s now the head baseball coach at WWCC.
It remains to be seen if Eskil is on a similar course. But he’s putting in the time and chalking up numbers and victories that would suggest as much.
As a DeSales junior playing mostly second and third base, Eskil posted a .469 batting average with 10 doubles and a pair of triples, drove in 32 runs and scored 19. And he helped lead the Irish to a 22-2 record, their second consecutive Class 2B state championship and the school’s 18th state baseball title overall.
His individual statistics for the two summer teams were unavailable, but there’s no question that Eskil was a key contributor for both clubs. And when the final out was recorded last August, Eskil celebrated a second state title as the Bruins completed a 39-7 season by defeating Eastlake 9-8 in the Class AA championship game.
The two state titles were similar yet different, Eskil said.
“At DeSales it was like the 18th (championship),” he said. “It’s just part of history. For the Bruins it was the first one, so that was pretty cool. But it was the same feeling both times.”
Bruins coach Jason Parsons most appreciated Eskil’s versatility in the field.
“Adam is a great kid, and he contributed in so many ways to the success of our team,” Parsons said. “Defensively, he was very versatile in that he could play the outfield or either of the middle infield positions, and he could pitch.
“A lot of kids can play multiple positions, but Adam was good and consistent at whatever position we needed him to play.”
And even though the pitching was a level up from what he faced in high school ball, Eskil continued to rake.
“He was just amazing offensively all summer,” Cox recollected. “He had a couple of five-hit games, and I remember one game where he had six hits. I never saw that before.”
Still and all, it’s Eskil’s commitment to the game that impresses the most. In everyone’s eyes, that is, but his own.
“It’s not too much,” Eskil said of his baseball workload. “I’m young. Besides, I didn’t have much else going on besides baseball.”
Nevertheless, it requires a heaping helping of dedication to spend most of your summer afternoons and evenings at the ballpark when your buddies are at the river swimming or cruising main street.
But Eskil has been dedicated to baseball for almost as long as he can remember. He started attending Kim Cox’s Baseball Prep hitting school as an 8-year-old, and he made his first Little League team at the age of 9.
Adam’s father, Rick Eskil, the editorial page editor at the Union-Bulletin, was Adam’s coach his last year in Little League and remains his son’s biggest fan.
“But Dad never pushed me,” Adam said. “I just always liked baseball the most, probably because I was too small to be really good at football and basketball.”
Eskil excels in the classroom as well, and where he attends college in the fall will be determined more by that school’s engineering program than its baseball program.
“Adam will have a lot of options,” Cox said. “He has worked really hard as a student and is the No. 1 guy in his physics class. And I know he wants to play and has the talent to play college baseball. He just has to find a place that is a good fit for both.
“It’s not every day that a college baseball coach recruits a guy with talent who is also pursuing an engineering degree. That doesn’t happen every day.”
In the meantime, Eskil will be trying to lead DeSales to yet another high school state championship this spring and then see what happens when he and many of his Bruins teammates move up to play for the Walla Walla Bears Senior American Legion team during the summer months.
There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and Adam Eskil couldn’t be happier. That’s just the way it is with baseball junkies.