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 Eckstein takes BP with Team USA

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PostSubject: Eckstein takes BP with Team USA   Sat Oct 27, 2007 12:11 pm

Eckstein takes BP with Team USA
Former World Series MVP gives tips to Bixler, Hollimon
By Conor Nicholl /

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Several Team USA players, including middle infielders Brian Bixler and Michael Hollimon, spent Thursday's batting practice session with an accomplished visitor.

David Eckstein, the brother of Team USA third base coach Rick Eckstein, took ground balls and talked with players on one of the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium. Eckstein is a two-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion and 2006 World Series MVP.

"I think it is great that he cares enough to come out workout with them," Team USA manager Davey Johnson said. "It just makes them feel better about themselves, and of course, they would like to have the career that he has already."

Eckstein was in Arizona with his wife. Ashley Eckstein, an actress, has a role in the film "Alice Upside Down." Based on a series of books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, the movie will be shown Saturday at the Sedona International Film Festival.

Eckstein, a pending free agent after spending the past three seasons with St. Louis, met with players and fielded questions from the national team's middle infielders during the 90-minute workout.

"We talked about two-strike approach and do you straddle [second base on plays] and basic stuff," he explained. "They were wondering what I do in certain situations and stuff like that."

Bixler, a 25-year-old shortstop in the Pirates organization, hit .274 with 28 stolen bases at Triple-A Indianapolis this season and could contend for a Major League job in 2008. He asked Eckstein about the differences between Triple-A and the Majors.

"In the Majors, you have a lot more video and a lot more resources to know how to attack pitchers," Eckstein said. "In Triple-A, you have a lot of quality guys down there and really don't know too much about them. Once you go to the Majors, you have a lot of video and you can check them out.

"The only difference between Triple-A and the Majors is just the game speed in the sense that it is the same game that you have always played, but it is just a little bit different."

Hollimon, a Tigers prospect, played left field for the first time in his professional career Thursday afternoon in Team USA's opening game against Arizona Fall League opponents. Eckstein told him the more positions he plays, the better chance he has in the big leagues.

"You play for all 30 teams when you are out there," Eckstein said. "You play all the positions because you never know what position is going to give you that actual shot in the big leagues.

"You just never know. You have to find a way to get yourself to the big leagues. Once you get there, they will put you in the position where you need to be at."

Eckstein knows what position he'll play in 2008, he just doesn't know where. His three-year, $10.25 million contract is over and while he would like to return to the Cardinals, he's just enjoying the offseason.

"Things are going great. I wish I was playing [in the World Series] right now," he said with a laugh. "But things are going good. I have the opportunity to be with my wife the majority of the time and stuff like that, just getting ready for next season."

bow Z. Miner
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