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Eck visits Angels camp to work with infield

Former star shortstop's message to Angels' defense: Do the little things well
Special to MLB.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- As far as could be discerned, David Eckstein did not bring a rally monkey to Spring Training for his second year as a guest infield instructor for the Angels.

Everything else that gave Eckstein such a special place in team history, however, was front and center for players young and old to absorb.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- As far as could be discerned, David Eckstein did not bring a rally monkey to Spring Training for his second year as a guest infield instructor for the Angels.

Everything else that gave Eckstein such a special place in team history, however, was front and center for players young and old to absorb.

That, of course, was the whole idea, even if many of the Angels' younger players were teenagers when the undersized, overachieving Eckstein was helping the Angels and the Cardinals to World Series championships.

"I think most of our guys still know who David Eckstein was, and what a terrific Major League shortstop he was, and how he had to learn how to do things very efficiently," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They respect his experience. They respect the way he adapted to play a very important position. His words resonate with a lot of other players for sure."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

At 5-foot-7, Eckstein was the starting shortstop and a key component in the Angels' rally-monkeying, boom-sticking roll to the 2002 World Series championship in his second season with the Angels, two years after being waived by the Red Sox. Eckstein reprised that role for St. Louis when it won the '06 World Series. That year, he was the MVP.

After stops with Arizona and San Diego, Eckstein stepped away from the game in order to help his wife Ashley start Her Universe, a fashion and apparel company that makes science-fiction clothing targeted for women and girls.

Most recently, Eckstein spent four days in Tempe with an eye toward helping the younger infielders in the Angels' system.

It was a natural fit for Eckstein, not only because of his Angels' connection but because he spent four years as a coach for Team USA's under-18 baseball team.

Eckstein played the majority of his 10 Major League seasons at shortstop. although he also spent considerable time at second with the D-backs and Padres in the final two years of his career. His resume is a how-to manual on doing the little things properly. He fielded his position well, put the ball in play and was an efficient base stealer/runner.

Eckstein was the most difficult player to strike out in the American League in 2004 and was in the top 10 in that category in nine of his 10 seasons. He was successful on 73 percent of his stolen-base attempts and was an aggregate plus-24 in career runs saved over the average shortstop.

"Eck, when he was on the field, he was always the smartest player on the field," Scioscia said. "He meticulously studied not only our system to understand it but the little nuances. As far as physical ability, he had more than I think a lot of people give him credit for. Had really good hands. Strong, tough out at the plate. Although his throwing arm was probably not in the range of some major league shortstops, he made it work and was very accurate with it. He was a terrific player."

Even the older players understand the value of having Eckstein to talk to, bounce ideas off or simply observe.

"With a guy like David Eckstein, [it's] what he brings every day," Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He loves baseball. He brings a lot of intensity to baseball. He's not a big guy. ... but he figured out a way to be a really, really good player. The energy that he brings and the knowledge that he has for the game. Positioning.

"Just the kind of nose-in-the-dirt type of mentality. He was always fighting. He never really gave an inch anywhere. Any time you have guys around like that, it is obviously beneficial."

Jack Magruder is a contributor to MLB.com based in Phoenix.

Los Angeles Angels