During his three-year stint with the Cardinals, David Eckstein was twice named an All-Star and won the 2006 World Series MVP. Now retired, the 37-year-old splits his time between homes in Florida and California but spent the weekend in Champaign working out with the Illinois baseball team and serving as the keynote speaker at the annual Hot Stove Banquet. Our Marcus Jackson caught up with the two-time World Series champion.
Are you bored without baseball?
My brother (Rick) is the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals in the major leagues, so I have negotiated with my wife that I get to stay home until he leaves for spring training. I'm working out with him right now and helping out at some of the local high schools.
What else is occupying your time these days?
My wife (Ashley) started a business. She does the female apparel for the sci-fi fans. She does some voiceover acting and one of her roles is on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." She does the voice for Ashoka Tano and she wanted to be able to buy female shirts but they just weren't made. She had to buy men's shirts. She kind of went off of what Alyssa Milano did with the MLB line. She's doing that for female sci-fi fans. As of right now she has the right to do Star Wars and we signed a deal and we're doing some of the properties of the Sci-Fi Channel. That's kind of taking my time.
Did you play with (new Cardinals manager) Mike Matheny in St. Louis?
I missed him. I came in in 2005 and that was the year he went to San Francisco. The one thing about him, you walk around the clubhouse and everyone would always tell me he was their favorite. He's such a great guy, such a great mind and now he's in such a great position. I'm very happy for him. I wish I had the opportunity to play with him, but everyone who has absolutely enjoyed it.
How much did you pay attention to the World Series?
I had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch for Game 6. That environment was awesome. It was the first time I was there as a fan and to actually truly be a part of Cardinal Nation. They treated us unbelievably. They treated me and my wife and my brother and his wife so great. I'm just so happy for them that they got to be able to celebrate another World Series.
Do you allow yourself to think you threw out the first pitch for what might go down as one of the greatest games of all time?
That was definitely an honor. They put me up in a suite and I was watching the game from up there. I was telling my wife that she probably got to see one of the greatest games of all time. We were thrilled for them to come back. David (Freese) coming through and hitting the game-tying triple then coming up and hitting the home run after what (Josh) Hamilton had done. God, it was thrilling.
Is it tough to watch as a fan, having no control of what's happening?
Following my brother's team, it's so much harder because you have zero control. The thing about it is as a player when the game's going on, there's no time to be nervous and you have the control, you can do things. Watching as a fan, that is difficult. During the World Series you're kind of on the edge of your seat during the game. But having the opportunity to enjoy it and seeing these players enjoy it for themselves, that's a big thrill.
Were you surprised to see Albert Pujols leave St. Louis?
To be honest, no. If you read what his wife said, I kind of was in the same situation when I was there in my final year there. The one thing is if the Cardinals want somebody, they get him. At the end of the day, I think if any of that is true, he would be a Cardinal. That rings a lot into my heart because I know how they handled my situation. He's going to another great organization. I think everyone would have loved to see him stay with the Cardinals. But he's going to another place I had the opportunity to play at and I know Mike Scioscia is a very good manager and he's going to enjoy it there.
So as a player, you understand that it's a business and there are no hard feelings with the organization?
It is such a business, it is such a business. You would love to wish it wasn't about that but the Cardinals run a business. Can you fault them for what they did? You can't fault them, they have to run it the way they think is best for them. At the end of the day the player has to make a decision, too. If what was true in the media, I don't think that was too difficult a decision for Albert to make with where the Cardinals were at and where the Angels are.
You've been welcomed back, do you expect Albert will be in the future?
I would hope so, I would definitely hope so. He's done so many great things for that city — and that's off the field. Everyone knows what he's done on the field, but off the field with his foundation and everything it's something that I truly hope the Cardinals fans truly understand what actually went down and to appreciate what he's done for that organization. I know there's going to be debate one way or the other, but at the end of the day, when he was there for the 11 years he gave his all for St. Louis and that's one thing we wish every player would do for their organization when they're playing for them.