The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

July 2, 2013

A Don McCormack column: Easton well-armed for debut

Though blessed with rocket-like left arm, one that can hurl a horsehide sphere at 90 mph from 60 feet, 6 inches, Brandon Easton has been kept at arm’s length from seeing action in his first baseball game as a professional.

That, however, is expected to change soon as the Pymatuning Valley product expects to toe the bump sometime this week for the Minnesota Twins’ entry in the Rookie Gulf Coast League team in Ft. Meyers, Fla.

“I’m a bit anxious, but I’m still in the midst of getting my arm ready,” the son of Bryan and Debra Easton said. “I tend to take a little longer to get my arm ready than most, but I feel like I’m there.

“Sometime (this week), I hope to get a start.”

Since being drafted in the 23rd round on June 28 and then signing with the Twins a few days later, Easton has embarked on the next step of his life.

And that, he said, begins bright and early on a typical day at the Hill Garden Inn.

“We get up around 6, and the vans leave for the ballpark at 7. Yeah, it’s early, but it’s my job,” he said with a laugh. “We head to the complex and have breakfast.

“Then, we stretch and throw and us pitchers go to one field and work on our drills and the position players go to their own field and do their thing.

“If we are playing a game that day, we have a simulated game among ourselves, with live pitching and hitting.

“Around noon, we head back to the clubhouse and have lunch and get ourselves ready for the game, which is at 1 or 2.”

After the games each day, the Twins have the rest of the night to themselves.

“They don’t feed us dinner, that’s on us, but that’s OK,” Easton said. “We’re on our own, but it’s pretty cool. We usually get a few guys together and go out for dinner.”

Easton said the weather has been an adjustment for him.

“It’s in the 90s, all the time,” the Lakeland Community College product said. “But it rains... every day, for about an hour.”

However, that does tend to pave the way to high humidity.

“Oh, man, it can be unbelievable!” he said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to even breathe. You really have to work on staying hydrated.”

The Twins have the 6-foot-6, 190-pound Easton and his teammates on a weight-lifting program.

“They run us through everything,” he said. “After BP or the simulated games, we hit the weight room. It’s a first-class facility.”

And it’s already paid off, too.

“I’ve put on three or four pounds already,” Easton said with a touch of pride. “It’s obviously a good program.”

Though he’s an 18-hour drive from home here in Ashtabula County, Easton certainly not lost touch.

“I hear from my parents pretty much on a daily basis,” he said. “My family is so important to me. I know I wouldn’t be here without them and all the support they’ve given me through the years.

“It’s always great to hear their voices.”

The level of play in Ft. Meyers has certainly caught Easton’s eye. The Twins are joined in the Rookie Gulf Coast League by squads from the Rays, the Red Sox and the Orioles.

“These guys are professionals, that’s why they’re here,” he said.

And the aspect of the game he’s focused on sounds simple, but to a young man of his height, it’s anything but.

“You really have to hit your spots and be consistent in doing that,” Easton said. “If you don’t, it can really hurt you.

“I’m really working on trying to be consistent as much as possible. If I can hit my spots with all my pitches, that’s what leads to more opportunities.”

That having been said, Easton made it clear he’s appreciative of being where he’s at.

“I am so blessed to be where I’m at and to have this opportunity... it’s my dream,” he said. “I’m so appreciative. Every day, I count my blessings.

“To have this as my job... this is my dream, my life.”

And the former Laker great has kept a good perspective.

“There are millions of kids who wish to have this opportunity,” Easton said. “And I’m going to make the most of it.

“I’ve gotten my foot on the doorstep. Now, it’s up to me to keep working hard and walk through the next door. I will do everything I can to make sure that happens.”

Starting with his first professional appearance, sometime this week.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at donmac@suite224.net.

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