Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Bruce Wawrzyniak

10/31/2012 (1 year ago)

Catholic Sports Association (www.catholicsportsassociation.com)

It was a magical year for Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals

It was a magical year for Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals.  Not only did they win the National League East division in 2012, but they were the winningest team this season, finishing with 98 victories.  But then came a five-game post-season that was as heartbreaking as those previous almost 100 contests were memorable.

Perched atop the team dugout steps, Rick Eckstein watches his hitters. (Photo courtesy of Washington Nationals)

Perched atop the team dugout steps, Rick Eckstein watches his hitters. (Photo courtesy of Washington Nationals)

Highlights

By Bruce Wawrzyniak

Catholic Sports Association (www.catholicsportsassociation.com)

10/31/2012 (1 year ago)

Published in Sports

Keywords: Rick Eckstein, baseball, Washington Nationals, Bruce Wawrzyniak


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Sports Association) - It was a magical year for Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals.  Not only did they win the National League East division in 2012, but they were the winningest team this season, finishing with 98 victories.  But then came a five-game post-season that was as heartbreaking as those previous almost 100 contests were memorable.

With two outs in the top of the ninth inning and trailing 7-5, St. Louis scored four times en route to a 9-7 win over Washington in the fifth and deciding game of the National League Division Series.

Despite the script not ending the way baseball fans in our nation's capital would've liked it to, Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein said the season, however, brought with it good lessons.

"The Lord puts challenges in everyone's life to cultivate strength, toughness, stick-to-itiveness, all the characteristics you look for in these athletes to get the best out of themselves.  The tough times the last four years enabled our guys to grow the right way, to reach their potential."

As difficult as it is to come so close but not get to the National League Championship Series or the World Series, Eckstein has seen that these occurrences show that prayers are answered on God's time, not ours.

"I share with my wife all the time that in life you always want things.  For myself and our belief, the Lord will bless you but you have to be patient and faithful.  To be so close and not win it, well, you just have to be strong in your faith and never have doubt.  It absolutely allows you to see the big picture and keep striving forward.  When the time is right the Lord will bless you."

You didn't have to be a Nationals season ticketholder this season to know the name Bryce Harper.  He debuted in the Majors this season at the age of 19, which Eckstein says gives "hope and inspiration to young kids who want to achieve something great in sports.  What Bryce has accomplished this year is a testimony to his parents and the way they raised him.  Family values established in their home were building blocks in life.  Bryce has a good handle on all that and is blessed to have what he has gotten."

While working with one of the game's most publicized up-and-coming players might sound glamorous, Eckstein faces the pressure of every player wanting to put up big numbers regularly and every manager looking for his hitters to do so.  Eckstein says, "To say everyone's going to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in isn't realistic.  I try to evaluate each person individually and develop a program and a plan to reach their potential as a major league hitter.  We want them to see that 'If I do this (hitting program) I'll be a member of a winning team.'"

He goes on to point out, however, that at times with his hitters he has to offer them something other than just comments about their mechanics or technique.  "You have to have that inner faith and inner strength to get through some of the toughest times.  I've been with guys that have been swinging the bat better than ever but aren't getting too many hits so I turn to my Faith.  You have to believe in your heart and have faith.  The ball is just not falling right.  You can't become negative and get down.  In MLB I'm showing up every day with my plan, my approach, and if at the end of the night I've given my best I'll win out, and your faith will be enacted.  Media will be on your back, fans will be booing - that's when you really have to rely on your faith to get through those times."

Having been with the Nationals the last four years and in sports - playing or coaching - since he was a student-athlete, Eckstein doesn't just talk the talk, he has walked the walk.

"I had an injury my junior year of college.  The Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres had sent information for me to fill out, potentially to be drafted.  But the ankle injury prevented me from finishing my junior year, which was a critical year.  After that no (team) talked to me again.

"After my senior year the coaches told me they wanted me to stay on as a coach, which was great.  So I went from severe disappointment to encouragement.  I applied for jobs at community colleges and was told I wasn't experienced enough.  I couldn't understand why - I had more experience than the others so it didn't add up.  I had interned under (football coach) Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida, so I got in my truck and went to Daytona where he was speaking." 

"I sat and listened to him talk, went back to my truck, flipped on my cellphone, and there were 20 messages from my dad to hurry up and call him.  The Minnesota Twins had called wanting me to go to the big leagues as their bullpen catcher.  Immediately I thought, 'okay God, I know why you said no.'  Suddenly I was working with the best of the best out of nowhere.  In two weeks a whole new world opened up.  My wife and I talk all the time about certain stuff and when one door closes you have to be patient for the other to open."

In two weeks he and Caroline will celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary, which takes on even more significance since the couple recently learned that they will be parents.  Caroline is due in May with their first child.  No doubt that little boy or girl will be told what Rick tells students.

"I always love to tell kids that no matter what you always need to give your best - school, chores at home, being a good brother or sister, a good son or daughter, grandchild. always give your best, because if you teach yourself to always give your best then when the moment arises you'll shine like the shining star you are.  You can't be selective.  Be a winner in all aspects of life.  You'll be a champion because you've always taught yourself to do things one way and that's the right way."

The Nationals may not have gone all the way through the 2012 post-season, but their hitting coach walks a Faith life that shows what a winner looks like off the field.



Comments


More Sports

It's the CATHOLIC WORLD CUP: Who are you praying for? Team Benedict or Team Francis?

Image of Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis are praying. Who are you praying for? Team Benedict or Team Francis?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Sunday's World Cup match will be absolutely historic for Catholics around the world and especially in the Vatican. For the first time in history two living pontiffs, Emeritus Benedict and Francis, will watch teams from their respective homelands meet for the World Cup ... continue reading


Germany destroys Brazil in 7-1 match Watch

Image of Germany shattered an almost forty year run of Brazil remaining undefeated at home after their July 8 match.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Brazil's bid to win a record sixth World Cup ended, after the host country suffered a 7-1 loss to Germany in the soccer semifinal. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Germany won the most lopsided World Cup semifinal game in history, which was also the worst defeat ... continue reading


Americans blow up twitter after U.S. World Cup game Watch

Image of Dempsey made the first goal of the game, scoring just 32 seconds into the match.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Soccer has never enjoyed the cult-like popularity in the United States that it enjoys in more traditional hot spots like Europe, South America and Africa, but the 2014 Brazil world cup may have changed all that, at least according to activity on twitter following ... continue reading


San Diego and the MLB mourn the passing of 'Mr. Padre' Watch

Image of Tony Gwynn, known as 'Mr. Padre' has died at the age of 54 after a multi-year battle with salivary gland cancer.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn has passed away at the age of 54 after losing his battle with salivary gland cancer. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Gwynn spent the entirety of his 20-year Major League Baseball career with the San Diego Padres, in which time he ... continue reading


Football legend Chuck Noll dies Watch

Image of Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls from 1975-80, more than any other coach in NFL history.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The only coach to win four Super Bowls passed away at the age of 82 at his home on June 13. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chuck Noll was a Pittsburgh area icon, coaching the Steelers from 1969-91 and set the team on the path to greatness, taking four Super Bowls ... continue reading


Sterling backs out of record $2 billion deal for Clippers Watch

Image of Donald Sterling's troubles began after a recording of racist remarks he made were made public.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a move-which some may not find surprising-Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA's Clippers franchise, has backed out of a record $2 billion deal with a former Microsoft executive to sell the team. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sterling, the owner of the Los ... continue reading


Is he insane? Sterling sells Clippers to Microsoft CEO for record breaking $2-billion Watch

Image of The NBA has pressured the Sterling family to sell the Clippers after racist comments made by Donald Sterling were made public.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Los Angeles Clippers have an apparent worth of $2-billion, at least according to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, who won a bidding war for the team, edging out offers of $1.6 and $1.2-billion. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The bid set a ... continue reading


Three-year trip around the world in primitive vessels sets out Watch

Image of The sister canoe, Hikianalia, does pack technical gear and will trail the Hokulea for safety.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two double-hulled vessels have set sail this weekend on an ambitious three-year world tour. Embarking from Hawaii, the voyage is "to try and prove the idea that Polynesians and Hawaiians actually did purposely transit the oceans." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


UN 'expert' condemns Redskins football team Watch

Image of While the Washington Redskins have been criticized over their icon and name, public opinion still rests heavily with them.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Washington Redskins may receive a name change, at least if a so-called expert on indigenous rights gets his way. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - James Anaya, a law professor with the University of Arizona, oversees global indigenous rights with the UN, and said ... continue reading


Say it ain't so! Yankee pitcher suspected of cheating Watch

Image of A mysterious substance was visible on Pineda's hand through the early portion of the April 10 game against the Red Sox, during the fifth inning the substance did not appear.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A few eyebrows were raised during the season's first New York Yankee-Chicago Red Sox game, Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda apparently had a suspicious substance on his hand during the third inning of the April 10 game. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pineda ... continue reading


All Sports News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 18:1-6
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh as ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 146:1-2, 2-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! Praise Yahweh, my soul!2 I ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:47-53
47 'Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 31st, 2014 Image

St. Ignatius Loyola
July 31: St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guip˙zcoa, Spain, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter