GARY — For a team that doesn't play many home games, the Salina Stockade players are still offered comp tickets to their many away games.
As the Stockade pulled into Gary on Friday to play the RailCats, pitcher Jake Eaton had a few extra tickets donated from his Stockade teammates. With his hometown of LaPorte a short 40-mile drive up the tollway and his college town of Anderson a quick two hours away, coming to Gary is as close to a home game that Eaton will see this season.
Salina returns next week for a four-game series Tuesday through Thursday.
"This is great to be here," said Eaton, a 6-foot-6 lefty pitcher who played two games with the RailCats last season. "I definitely looked at the schedule first to see when we'd be coming here."
Eaton was picked up by Salina in late June, playing his first game on June 23. He owns the second-lowest ERA on the pitching staff at 4.26 and has thrown in two of their six wins heading into Friday's game against the RailCats.
Salina, which plays seven games at home, is a nearly all-travel team that joined the American Association in early May after the Laredo Lemurs folded following a lengthy court battle among the owners.
Salina was a Pecos League team that agreed to play most of its games on the road this season. The Stockade, managed by JD Droddy, has been adding pieces as the season progressed, including Eaton.
The Stockade has won four times in the last three weeks.
"We don't have that great of a record, but it's kind of cool going in as the underdog," Eaton said. "It's good to have fans cheer behind you, but if you go in and shut them up as the road team, that's just as good a feeling. You just have to embrace it."
"I don't think there's any reason to take a team lightly, it's baseball," RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. "You're going to win or lose based on a good pitching performance, some balls that fall in."
Eaton's trip onto the Salina roster came courtesy of a championship he won with Tuscon of the Pecos League, managed by Droddy. When Droddy took over the Stockade as it made its move into the American Association this season, he kept his eye on Easton.
"He needed a bullpen guy or spot starter," Eaton said. "He saw me last year and knew what I could do. I've found my role now in the bullpen."
Eaton started against Texas on July 2, taking the loss, his only decision of the season.
The travel doesn't bother Eaton, who said he rather enjoys the American Association.
"It's not that hard right now based on where I came from in the Pecos League," he said. "We were staying four to a room at Motel 6s, no continental breakfasts, no meals taken care of. Even though this is a travel team, based on where I was prior to this, it's a lot better situation for me."