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Waiting for the next pitch

Quin Walker, Staff Reporter - February 6, 2013

Most college students get a care package filled with food, clothes and a letter from their parents. Redshirt junior Eddie Malone Jr., however, simply received a tee-shirt.

Like many baseball players trying to find a home on a university’s team, Malone had to travel around the country before settling down with the Wildcats as a first baseman. His journey began in his hometown of Queens Creek, Ariz., a suburb just outside of Phoenix.

But when Malone was twelve years old, he earned the opportunity of a lifetime: a free trip to Williamsport, Pa. to compete in the 2003 Little League World Series.

Malone played ball for Chandler National Little League in Chandler, Ariz. After winning the Western Regional in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Malone’s team headed to Williamsport for the World Series and the events that followed were unforgettable.

“It was the greatest experience I’ve ever had,” Malone said. “Going to Pennsylvania was a blast.”

Malone quickly noticed the star treatment they were all receiving.

“People wash your clothes for you, we stayed in dorms with twelve bunk beds,” Malone said. “Bats and uniforms are given to you. It’s an experience you can’t recreate. It’s almost like you’re playing in the big leagues as a 12-year-old. There were 28,000 fans at every game. The lights were bright and we were playing in 80-degree weather.”

The team placed fifth overall and third out of U.S. teams, eventually being knocked out by Florida.

Malone continued his baseball career through high school and to Mesa Community College. After putting up some impressive stats, Malone contacted Wildcats head coach Desi Storey for the opportunity to play at Central.

Malone was awarded a scholarship shortly after and made the trek north to Ellensburg.

“It’s a new environment for me, coming from Arizona and all,” Malone said. “The team is filled with really good guys. We all have a passion to win, we all work hard and all work as a group to win and be the best as we can be.”

Before and after practice, Malone is always looking to get better with extra repetitions. Hard work and dedication is in Malone’s blood, and he credits his parents for his work ethic.

“My mom and dad have taught me to work hard; they are both hard-working people,” Malone said. “In order to earn things and get what you want, I have to push myself.”

Malone is always fine-tuning his hitting, for good reason too. He’s a switch hitter, meaning he bats both left and right-handed.

“Being a switch hitter, it takes a lot more work,” Malone said. “I have to do it. I have to keep both sides in tune.”

Storey took note of Malone’s attributes and attitude as well, and has been impressed with him ever since he arrived in Ellensburg.

“Eddie has excellent work ethic, he lives to hit,” Storey said. “He is always hitting extra before and after practice, always works hard in the weight room. He’s been fantastic since he’s gotten here. He’s a great teammate and always has a smile on his face.”

The first baseman’s impact has reached his teammates also. His roommate, sophomore outfielder Mike Davalos came with Malone from Mesa CC and feeds off of his energy.

“Since I first got here my work ethic has been consistent,” Davalos said, “but [Malone] changed my work ethic even more. Whenever other people see him working extra, they wind up doing the same thing.”

Malone mentioned a few role models in his life who had a deeper impact than just getting him to love the sport of baseball.

“I would have to say Jackie Robinson,” Malone said. “He broke the barrier and gave people of all ethnicity a chance to play. [Also] Curtis Granderson. He is a great role model and great example for people.”

The season finally began for Malone and the Wildcats last weekend, when they embarked on a six-game road trip to California. After less-than-stellar weather in Ellensburg the past few weeks, it sounded as if the whole team was ready for a little California sunshine.

In a recent GNAC preseason poll, the Wildcats were projected to finish second in the final conference standings.

“The fact that we finished second in voting shows that other coaches are paying attention to the direction we are going,” Storey said. “We just have to take care of business. We don’t want to finish second, it’s nice to be recognized as a good team, but we want to win a title.”

But whether the Wildcats win the title or not, Malone plans on putting his exercise science major to good use if baseball doesn’t work out for him in the future.

“I would like to have a degree, own my own business,” Malone said. “I plan on opening a gym and train elite athletes. I would like to push some hard-working traits onto others who were once like me.”

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