After spending parts of four seasons in the minors, former Virginia Military Institute star Nate Eaton made his Major League debut on Thursday. Eaton helped guide the Royals to a 3-1 victory in Toronto, blasting a 416-foot home run in the ninth to extend the Kansas City lead.
The Royals’ center fielder mashed a 3-2 pitch into the Rogers Centre seats, earning his first major league hit and home run in one swing.
Eaton finished Thursday’s contest with one hit and one RBI in four plate appearances.
Nate Eaton has a 416 ft. first MLB hit!#TogetherRoyal pic.twitter.com/ChgiT5682f— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) July 15, 2022
The former Keydet earned the promotion to The Show after it was announced that 10 Royals would miss the upcoming trip to Toronto due to the vaccine mandate.
Eaton, a two-way standout at VMI, has split the 2022 season between AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha. The Kansas City farmhand has hit an impressive .301, while recording 13 home runs, 44 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases.
The path to Eaton’s Major League debut for the Royals began much earlier than Thursday’s scheduled 7:07 first pitch in Toronto. Eaton’s journey started in 2015 in Lexington, VA where he began his collegiate career in the Southern Conference.
The Chester, VA native spent two seasons with the Keydets, appearing in 108 contests as a position player and 18 on the mound.
Eaton amassed a .287 average with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs, manning the hot corner in the VMI lineup. On the bump, Eaton compiled a 4-1 record with 46 strikeouts in 45 innings, limiting his opponents to a .212 batting average in 2018.
During his second and final season in Lexington, the future Royal would etch his name into the VMI record books. Eaton set the VMI single-season stolen base record with 36, ranking third in all of college baseball.
He earned Second Team All-SoCon honors, hitting .287 and tallying a 4.44 ERA. Eaton finished 6th all-time in strikeouts per nine innings, retiring 10.36 batters via punch out.
The Kansas City Royals selected Eaton in the 21st round of the 2018 MLB Draft, joining teammates Josh Winder and Matt Pita in the VMI draft class.
Although there is no certainty for Eaton to remain on the Royals’ roster, he will get three more games to prove he belongs at the Major League level. With his versatility and speed on the base paths, expect Eaton to receive ample opportunity to carve a role in Kansas City.