The Washington Nationals have come a long way since the first two months of 2019’s baseball season. They’re now much closer to where fans and foes never thought they’d be: a team close to having the best record in the MLB’s National League East.
But in the midst of a ride as wild as a 162-game season, there are things to focus on bigger than baseball – and Nationals’ right fielder Adam Eaton knows it. The 30-year-old lefthander from Springfield, Ohio is in his third year with DC’s baseball team, and with that came his third annual Rev Up The Park charity event.
Rev Up The Park combines Eaton’s love for cars with his passion for making a difference. With the help of the Nationals Dream Foundation and his connection to the Dragonfly Foundation, his third year has been the biggest one yet with over 200 registered cars and over $22,000 raised. Eaton has been able to see the benefits of his support, keeping in touch with Dragonfly Foundation Cofounder Christine Neitzke and her son Matt, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010 but is now cancer-free thanks to the foundation’s efforts.
“To actually see families that have benefited from [the Dragonfly Foundation’s] programs is huge for me,” Eaton says. “To continue to see them giving back continues to fuel me to donate my time, money and efforts to hopefully help those families to survive and have a brighter side to what they’re going through.”
The event, held on July 27, raised funds for the Dragonfly Foundation in support of pediatric cancer patients and their families. Eaton says he’s not alone in pursuing his passion, as a good portion of Major League Baseball players try to stay in touch with their hobbies.
“Baseball is such a mental and physical grind,” he says. “Having a distraction, life perspective and being in touch with life outside of baseball is huge for us as baseball players.”
Whether it’s hunting, fishing or cars – his Dodge Viper ACR in particular – “everything outside of our professional lifestyle is always important for us to do [so we can] continue to be human beings and do things outside of baseball.”
Since childhood, owning American muscle cars has motivated Eaton, and remained a focal point of his personal life as he worked his way through the Minor Leagues and became a 19th-round draft pick in 2010.
“I love baseball and wanted to be able to afford vehicles,” he says. “That was it. That was my only thought. This is very much a ‘pinch me’ moment. I never thought in a million years that I’d ever own my dream car, and I’m very excited about it. I’m an American muscle car guy through and through. That’s all I own and will ever own. I’m patriotic and love my country and try to give back the best I can. It’s a very surreal moment.”
Another car fanatic on the Nationals is ultimate utility player Howie Kendrick, who also looks forward to this event every year and is happy to be able to support Eaton and the cause.
“It’s really cool to see the following he’s gotten now with this event,” Kendrick says. “Every year it grows. It’s a blast to talk to the fans and car people in general. Adam takes a lot of pride in this event and it shows with the way it’s run and the people who donate their time to come help out. It [means a lot] to come out and be able to support Adam.”
Kendrick mentions that teammates Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon are also big car guys themselves – but not as big as himself and Eaton, who find themselves bonding over it often.
“Athletes and cars go hand in hand. Me and Adam are the two biggest car guys. We’re constantly talking cars, and you couldn’t think of a better event for his charity. I’m happy to be here and happy to support it.”
The Nationals Dream Foundation has been a major source of positive influence in the District, supporting local youth baseball teams and keeping the baseball influence high in the community, as well as its military initiatives.
“Our guys are so willing,” Eaton says. “We’ve got a really good group of guys. We have a platform to influence the community in a positive manner. [The foundation] is the number one priority outside of baseball.”
He doesn’t think about legacy – just the opportunities he’s given and how he can use his platform to help others. Nothing is set in stone, and Eaton remains humbled and happy to be where he is.
“They’ve given me the opportunity of a lifetime,” he says. “I’m blessed that the Nationals gave me the opportunity to play and help the community. I just want to be as positive as I can, play as hard as I can and let the chips fall.”
Eaton has always taken pride in setting a good example on and off the field, even when he was battling major injuries as a newer member of the team in previous seasons.
“Even being a new guy and being hurt, I wanted to try and [be a good] influence and work as hard as I could to get healthy. It’s about knowing that you can make an impact, [and] not just through playing baseball. It’s all about just playing to the fullest every day – hustling and playing the right way.”
Eaton works with the team’s younger outfielders, 22-year-old Victor Robles and 20-year-old Juan Soto, noting how he just wants to be a leader with his never-give-up mentality of “just trying to let them see the right way to play the game.”
“I try to influence them in a positive manner. That’s the cool thing about baseball. You play every single day and you constantly have chances to be positive or negative – and it’s your choice. The older I get, hopefully the better I get to approaching it and trying to learn through failures and successes.”
For the Nationals’ starting right fielder, there’s just something special about rocking the curly “W” on his chest in the nation’s capital.
“[It’s] really cool to be able to wear the curly ‘W’ and be in front of people that represent this country: politicians and government officials, [and] just people that live in this area. It’s really unique for me and something I take great pride in, and I know that the Nationals do as well.”
Eaton has evolved in his all-around leadership role from his first year as a National in 2016 to the present, as the team keeps driving to nab the top spot of the NL East Division.
“Come support us in the next few months,” Eaton says. “It’s going to be a heck of a ride.”
With eight homestands remaining, catch the Nationals’ regular season games at Nationals Park through Sunday, September 29. At time of publishing, the Nats are 57-51. Learn more at www.nationals.com
Nationals Park: 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC; 202-640-7368; www.nationals.com