David Eckstein, 2002 Fleer "Triple Crown" series
David Eckstein is the forefather of grinders. His story is a remarkable and popular one -- born nine months premature, he grinded his way to five feet seven inches in height, tall enough to attend college. From there he walked on to the baseball team -- not by walking but by grinding -- and then led them to 16 consecutive semester championships. Eventually he grinded to the bigs, where every team he ever played for won the World Series. He only retired when he could no longer throw the ball from second to first -- he grinded it there, which worked for a while, but then modern runners became faster thanks to steroids, and the curtain was drawn.
The above story has been told so many times it seems impossible to find anything David Eckstein-related that does not indulge in the urge to mention it. I did, however, locate a baseball card that seems to have gotten its story from an unreliable source.
The quirky Eckstein
David Eckstein has been described as a lot of things -- grinder, scrappy, grinder, scrappy, scrapper, grindy, "Scraps," Grindy McGrinderson, etc. -- but never quirky. Quirky is how we describe people like Carl Everett, who doesn't believe in dinosaurs. David Eckstein believes in dinosaurs. David Eckstein IS a dinosaur, in that he is a throwback named Grindosaurus Ecks.
was a standout personality and athlete for the Florida Gators
I am unsure if David Eckstein was/is a standout personality. I have never heard him speak, probably because so many people have decided to speak for him. Telling inappropriate albeit hilarious jokes at parties and doing keg stands (the only known ways to define "standout personality") is not, however, the typical life of a grinder. Grinders remain quiet, because grinding requires so much focus and hard work. "Let him get the glory," is the motto of the grinder. "I'll be here doing the little things to help us win, like being mad short and choking up 12 feet on my bat so I don't strikeout."
team that finished third in the 1996 College World Series.
Also incorrect. First of all, you can't finish third in a World Series. You either win it or you don't. Pretty sure the Atlanta Braves aren't all like, "Hooray, we finished tenth in the 2012 World Series WHERE'S OUR TROPHY?" Also, the Florida Gators won the 1996 College World Series because David Eckstein was on the team.
So this card has it all wrong, but that's okay because nobody -- not even Fleer's 2002 "Triple Crown" series -- is perfect. And actually, the inaccuracy of this card does well to highlight the grindiness of Eckstein himself, since grinders are often misunderstood. Sometimes the grinding is mistaken for "showing up" the athletes with more talent but less desire. Sometimes genuine grinding is mistaken for ironic grinding -- "Yo, check it out, dude is hustling down the line when he's obviously out. HA! Hilarious! We should invite him to the party later." But true grinders always shine through, and the way you can tell is how their light reflects on to others.