CINCINNATI -- Adam Eaton grew up roughly 90 minutes from Great American Ball Park, graduating from high school in Springfield, Ohio, before going to college at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford. He estimated he had anywhere from 30 to 50 people -- family members, friends and college teammates --
CINCINNATI -- Adam Eaton grew up roughly 90 minutes from Great American Ball Park, graduating from high school in Springfield, Ohio, before going to college at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford. He estimated he had anywhere from 30 to 50 people -- family members, friends and college teammates -- among the sold-out crowd on Friday cheering him on for this significant game.
In his first regular-season game in about 11 months, Eaton set the table at the top of the order in the Nationals' 2-0 victory over the Reds on Opening Day.
"To have a lot of friends and family to be able to kind of enjoy the moment of getting back on the field made it that much more special," he said. "Especially because they've had such a huge hand in my return."
And Eaton wasted no time inserting his impact on the game. He collected a leadoff single off Reds starter Homer Bailey in his first at-bat of the 2018 season, and his first plate appearance since he tore the ACL in his right knee at the end of last April. Eaton advanced from first to third on a single from Bryce Harper, then scored the first run of the Nationals' season after the Reds were unable to convert a likely double play on an infield grounder from Ryan Zimmerman.
"Right off the bat, you get a single, then you go first to third with a little ball right up the middle," Eaton said. "You find out right away whether you can do it or not."
Eaton had been tested in Spring Training games and had endured countless hours of rehab, but this was a different sort of test. He felt nervous before the game, but excited to finally be back on the field for his first regular-season game since his injury on April 28 cost him the remainder of the 2017 season.
And the Nationals saw the kind of production they envisioned when they acquired him two winters ago to hit atop of their lineup. After creating that run in the first inning, he drew a walk in his second at-bat in the third inning. He struck out in his final at-bat to end the fifth, but he did not go down without a nine-pitch battle at the plate.
The Nationals double-switched him out of the game at the start of the seventh inning, with manager Dave Martinez sensing the perfect chance to get Eaton off his feet in the field. They will still monitor Eaton slightly early on, but he is expected to play during Saturday's game.
And Washington will be happy to have him hitting at the top of its lineup.
"He's that spark plug," Martinez said. "He gets things going. He's full of energy. He's high energy. We're excited that he's back and playing."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.