Fuego shortshop shines in Pecos League
Santa Fe New Mexican
Eddie Newton came a long way to play for the Santa Fe Fuego this season. The Pecos League all-star shortstop grew up near Boston and was discovered in a one-day tryout in the spring. Since arriving in Santa Fe, all he has done is hit, field and become one of the league’s best everyday players.
Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2015 10:30 pm | Updated: 11:55 pm, Sun Jun 28, 2015.
By Will Webber
The New Mexican
The road to the Pecos League leads through … Massachusetts?
Eddie Newton is the first one to say he’d never heard of the Pecos League and almost next to nothing about Santa Fe. This spring, the two virtual unknowns in his life converged into a career opportunity that has made him into an all-star in his first year as a professional player.
“Really, the only thing I knew about Santa Fe is that it was in the mountains,” Newton said.
On Monday, Newton will be part of the starting lineup in the Pecos League, getting the nod at shortstop for the defending champion Santa Fe Fuego. He’s one of six players from Santa Fe on the North Division roster, which will be managed by the Fuego’s Bill Moore.
First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Fort Marcy Ballpark.
To think Newton is playing such a big role in anything like this may come as a surprise to those who saw him play during his freshman season at Merrimack College, a tiny liberal arts school near his hometown of North Billerica, Mass. Merrimack and Newton’s family home lie within the Boston suburbs, a place where New Mexico seems like it’s a million miles away.
“It was a great place to grow up, to play sports,” Newton said. “My dad was more of a basketball guy, but I kind of took to baseball and he’d just take me out and play ball and hit grounders to me all the time. He was good about it and it really helped.”
Those grounders came on the uneven grass fields near Newton’s neighborhood. They were followed by a college career where things didn’t exactly go well his first year out of Arlington Catholic High. He appeared in 34 games that season, batting just .143 with two stolen bases.
So far this season, he’s one of the top hitters in the Pecos League, batting .450 with seven home runs and 11 steals in 12 attempts. For about 25 games he was hovering around .500, an unreal figure considering how Newton’s college career started.
“What you get in a player like Eddie,” begins Fuego manager Bill Moore, “is a young man who puts in the work and learns about the game faster than about anyone. He does so many things right, and even though he’s not the biggest talker on the team, he’s one of those players who talks enough to the players around him to make him a leader.”
Moore has never been one to name team captains, and he’s not about to start now. If he were, he’d be hard-pressed to pass up Newton for that role.
“I wouldn’t say he’s the heart of the team, but he’s — well, he might be the heart,” Moore said. “He’s not the most emotional guy out there, but he does work hard.”
A third baseman for the majority of his time in college, Newton has become the everyday shortstop in Moore’s infield. It seems all those days of fielding ground balls on the uneven grass near his family’s home prepared him well for the lumpy infield at Fort Marcy.
“That’s funny,” he said. “It’s all about reading the hops and understanding how the infield plays, that’s it. But, yeah, I did have a lot of practice going after ground balls in a place like this.”
The youngest of five children, Newton was the only boy in a household where responsibilities were a staple of growing up.
“I’ve been doing chores since as long as I can remember; that’s one of those things my parents were so good at,” Newton said. “For them, it was all about teaching you to be responsible and learn how to take care of your own work. When I got to college, I was lucky enough to have a coach who was kind of like that, a guy who handed out blue collar awards for the top player after every win. It taught me to keep my head down, not get too high or too low, and just do my job.”
Undrafted out of college, Newton’s playing days appeared to be destined for adult leagues in the Boston area — which he was completely fine with. One of his teammates on one of those teams happened to play in the Pecos League last season, however, and he told Newton that the league was planning to conduct a tryout near his home.
Fuego pitcher Alex Teal was tabbed as the team’s representative for the one-day workout. Moore called him and said to keep his eye open for a potential shortstop. He found one in Newton.
“I had a good tryout, I guess,” Newton said. “I didn’t hit it the way I wanted, but I did good work in the field. I think that’s what got Alex’s attention. Everything kind of fell into place from there.”
Moore said it only took a brief report from Teal to get Newton a contract.
“Alex knew what I was looking for, and what I wanted was a player who could field his position, hit the ball a little and come in here with the right attitude,” Moore said.
A devoted fan of all things Boston, Newton is a creature of habit who has made his home away from home the cozy confines of Fort Marcy. Whereas most players scatter for a quick break after daily batting practice, he stays at the yard and does whatever he has to in order to get better.
Moore notices that, saying that work ethic is something that defines all great players.
“It’s why he’s an All-Star,” Moore said. “The kid worked hard to be here. He’s earned it.”
Pecos League All-Star Game
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Fort Marcy Ballpark
Pre-game events: Home run derby begins at 1 p.m.; North Division All-Stars will take batting practice at 3 p.m. and the South will hit at 4
All-Star rosters: Fuego entrants are Eddie Newton (shortstop), Matt Patrone (outfielder), Chevas Numata (first base), Tyler Herr (pitcher), Cody Spriggins (pitcher), Alex Teal (pitcher). For a complete list of players, visit www.pecosleague.com
Tickets: $6 (full concessions available, including beer sales)
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212