Eastley Excels in Short-season, Eh?

Sox slugger Reed Eastley (Photo/AquaSox)

EVERETT, Wash.- What does Canada have to do to get some love from the United States? How much more do they have to endure before we give them the credit they deserve for everything they've bequeathed us over the years? They introduced us to hockey, taught us how to brew beer properly, and beamed down the master of the dramatic pause himself... William (pause) Shatner.

Let's face it - we owe Canada. And if you're a northwest baseball fan, you owe them one more for AquaSox infielder Reed Eastley.

A 13th round draft pick from Niagara University, Eastley has been one of the hottest bats for the Sox this year. Through August 24, Eastley led the team with a .322 average and .453 on-base percentage and had four home runs and 23 RBI in 43 games. Eastley tips his cap to his teammates and coaches for keeping up his level of play.

"I think the team's doing well and if the team's doing well, personal success kind of follows that," said Eastley. "I've been getting a lot better [and] the coaching is unbelievable."

Eastley was a standout during his four years at Niagara, enjoying a breakout season in 2004 when he hit .368/.432/.627 with eight home runs and 57 RBI. He led the team in batting average, hits (78), doubles (25), RBI, and home runs, hit .410 with runners in scoring position and .500 with the bases loaded, and was one of only two players for the Purple Eagles to play all 54 games that year.

"I don't think that, without the '04 season, I would've been drafted," said the Brandon, Manitoba native. "The '04 season was my best year in college."

Eastley's ability to come up big in clutch situations was never more apparent than last Tuesday, when the infielder cleared the bases in the fifth with a go-ahead grand slam. It was his fourth home run and second grand slam of the year.

"[Tuesday night] definitely is one of the highlights—that was a great way to win," said Eastley. "Actually, I was lucky enough to hit a grand slam earlier in the year, too, and those are probably my two biggest highlights as a pro so far."

Eastley's performance with Everett this year is even more impressive considering the fact that he sustained a major injury to start off the '05 season with Niagara.

"I broke my right forearm about twelve games into the year, but I ended up playing about thirty-something games," recalled Eastley. "I was probably healthy for the last three weekends or something like that. It was a little disappointing my senior year."

Fortunately for Eastley, a Mariners scout had already seen him prior to the injury and been impressed. After a healthy return to the diamond, Eastley convinced the M's of his worth and was drafted in the 13th round.

"I was pretty happy going in the 13th round," Eastley said. "The scout from the Mariners saw me play pretty early in the year. He knew I had been hurt, but he knew I was healthy, so I don't think it had too much of an affect on me."

Though Eastley's first foray into professional baseball has largely been a success, it hasn't been completely flawless. His nine fielding errors rank second highest on the team and have left Eastley with room to improve for next season.

"I still need to be a lot better defensively, but that's coming slowly," Eastley admits, though some of his mistakes may be attributed to his time spent shifting around the infield. Eastley is traditionally a shortstop, the place where he's spent the most time this year, though he's filled in at third base on occasion and more recently manned first base in place of Jeff Flaig, who the Sox are looking to convert into a left fielder.

"I've been filling in every once in a while for Ronny [Prettyman]," said Eastley. "I've been bouncing around all over the place, really."

Despite flaws in his defensive game, Eastley will still be a big factor in the AquaSox lineup in the closing weeks of the season as Everett drives towards a postseason berth. Eastley is no stranger to this type of play, either, having helped Niagara chase the same goal for several years.

"I enjoyed my four years of college," said Eastley. "We were in the race for three of those years and played pretty competitive baseball and pretty intense baseball. I definitely needed it personally and as far as preparing for a pennant race, I think it definitely has [helped]."

In the meantime, Eastley will have his hands full defending himself and teammate/fellow Canadian Mike Saunders from "constant" anti-Canadian barbs from the rest of the team. It's yet another role, however, that Eastley is happy to fill.

"We Canadians like to stick together and brag about every famous Canadian there is," Eastley says.

With any luck, his name will one day be among those ranks.

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