Brainerd Mighty Gulls center fielder Steve Adams' most embarrassing moment as a baseball player came when he dove head first into a wall when he was 14.
Now he is a Northwoods League all-star and Minnesota Twins head coach Ron Gardenhire is envious of his goatee.
Adams met Gardenhire while the Gulls were trying to clinch the North Division first-half title against the Rochester Honkers. Gardenhire's son, Toby, plays second base for the Honkers.
"I was just passing by," Adams said. "I'd never talked to him and he had never talked to me. He said he liked my goatee. I thought that was pretty neat."
'Off the field, he's just as much of a leader as on the field. To some degree, he kind of keeps guys in check whether we're eating out or shopping. He knows how to act off the field as well. He's not a guy you have to worry about.' -- Gulls assistant coach Jason Huskey
Adams may still dive head first into a wall while he is playing, but more often than not he will make the play.
"I do put it on the line all the time," Adams said. "That's why I'm really aching a lot of time. But I think it's worth it, because the way I'm playing right now is what I'm going to bring back to Northwestern."
Adams, who played under Brainerd head coach Kyle Crookes for a season at Northwestern State in Louisiana, will be a senior next year. During his time with the Gulls as the leadoff batter, Adams holds an on-base percentage of .452, third-best in the league. He is tops in runs scored with 32 and second in stolen bases with 23. Adams is hitting .281 this season and seems to always make big plays.
"He's an everyday guy that you don't really have to worry about," Brainerd assistant coach Jason Huskey said. "Physically he plays hard, head first slide at first, dive in the outfield.
"He's a guy that will do it everyday and he doesn't want a day off."
As the leadoff hitter, Adams' job is to get on base by any means possible. And he has, leading the Gulls in walks with 35, nearly twice as many as his next highest teammate.
Huskey said Adams' tenacity as the leadoff man contributes to the team's success.
"That's his role with the team," Huskey said. "He's a guy that will lay it down early and get something started. Any close play (at first), if he's in stride he's going to lay out, which you don't see a lot of. I've seen it happen five or six times this year where he'll dive and be safe.
"Then he's immediately looking to get to second."
In the field, Adams is just as apt to shine. When he was 14 and dove into the wall he did not catch the ball but picked it up, threw it in and collapsed. Now, he is more likely to make the great plays look normal. He has also committed just one error in 38 games.
"Defensively he makes great catches," Huskey said. "When the ball is hit in centerfield -- or right or left -- you pretty much expect him to be there."
Along with aggressive play, Adams brings other qualities to the team both on and off the field. As a senior in college, his maturity lends him a leadership position on the team.
The Abbeville, La. resident also keeps things loose when they are off the field.
"With him being from the deep south -- Louisiana -- the accent (is unique)," Huskey said. "He's just always saying something to make everybody laugh. Off the field, he's just as much of a leader as on the field. To some degree, he kind of keeps guys in check whether we're eating out or shopping. He knows how to act off the field as well. He's not a guy you have to worry about.
"When we step on that field, he's all business. And he's been like that since day one."
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