Adam Rosales is the kind of baseball player who is universally appreciated. He may not have the flashiest numbers, but everywhere he goes -- Cincinnati, Oakland, Arlington, San Diego -- he's amassed a sort of cult following.
Rosales' knee-high stockings harken back to days gone by, and the utility infielder is certainly doing his part to allay the fears of those worried about pace of game.
Rosales is renowned for his home run sprint, a dash around the bases Padres fans have been treated to eight times this season (five at home), and one that Statcast™ measured earlier this season as taking a mere 16.3 seconds to complete -- the second fastest in history, behind only Billy Hamilton's 16.2 mark.
The funny thing is, he does it out of self-consciousness.
"Well," Rosales said, "that all started when I was a little kid. You know, I hit my first home run and I just kind of jogged around the bases. And I felt really awkward doing it, so the next time I hit a home run over the fence, I'm like, 'I'm just going to keep running like I hit a triple.' I just kind of kept sprinting around the bases and I told myself if I ever made it to the Major Leagues or play professional ball, I would keep on doing that.
"When I ran slow, I just felt awkward that one time. And I'm like, 'All right, that's enough. I'm just going to run hard.'"
Fans might notice, too, that Rosales makes a habit out of sprinting on and off the field between innings. It's all part of his shtick, but it's the most genuine shtick you've ever seen.
Andy Green, Rosales' manager in San Diego and former roommate when the two played Triple-A ball together in Louisville, Ky., says it's contagious.
"When you've got a veteran guy who doesn't receive a ton of opportunity to play, a lot of their value derives from their ability to have a positive impact on the guys that are on the field on a consistent basis -- the young guys, too," Green said of Rosales. "Anybody who walks into our clubhouse sees his smile, sees his infectious demeanor and sees the fact that he loves being in the ballpark every day. He goes about his business the right way. You put him out there in the right situation to face left-handed pitching and play defense, he does a very good job when he's in that role. Guys respond well to him. He's very authentic."
For Rosales, it's all in a day's work.
"It's just in me to do that," he said. "I think if I don't do that -- if I don't run or if I don't have energy in the batter's box, and I don't work out hard and don't run and exercise hard and take ground balls hard -- if I stop doing that, it's like a light switch. It's going to turn off and that energy won't sustain itself. I have to keep it going, like the little windup toy, I guess. You've got to wind it up; that's the way I wind it up.
"That's kind of what's innate in me to believe is that's something in me I have to keep alive. Once it dies out, I think I'm in trouble."
If that home run dash is any indication, Rosales, at 33, doesn't have to worry about losing his spark anytime soon.
Over the years, Rosales has learned to refine that spark. He may no longer be an everyday starter -- the Illinois native makes appearances off the bench most often these days -- but he has a better understanding of how to play to his strengths than he did as a rookie in 2008 with the Reds.
Along with Rosales' hustle, versatility is one of those strengths. He has appeared at every position except catcher at some point in his Major League career (he's taken the mound twice, in two blowout games as a Ranger).
"It's not really mundane," Rosales said. "There's something new every day that I have to be ready for, and that's what's cool about being a utility player."
Moving around the diamond, Rosales said, has him learning something new about the game he's played for 25 years. That's a practice he hopes to continue for a long time; every day he takes the field is another chance to impact kids in the stands.
"When I was playing travel ball, [coaches] said, 'You never know who's watching you play. There could be college scouts and Major League scouts in the stands. You never know who's watching you, so play like there's always somebody [who's] got eyes on you,'" Rosales said. "That always kind of gave me extra energy to put forth 100 percent effort, because you never know who is watching you. I used to think, 'Major League scouts are watching me,' so I played harder, but now for me, it's more important that little kids are watching me."
Rosales espouses that mentality through the coaching clinic he runs, BaseballUtility, and in the periodic podcast, "The Fielder and the Fan," he produces together with his cousin Noah.
It's all part of the plan. As a kid, Rosales idolized journeyman speedster Shawon Dunston, and now, he hopes to be that figure for young Friars fans. That goes back to a vow he made as a Minor Leaguer, when his dad gave him some advice.
At the time, Rosales was 24 and, by his own account, cocksure. William Rosales was quick to set his son straight.
"I had just got called up from High-A [to Double-A], I was having a decent year and [my dad] always made sure I wasn't complacent, made sure I took that step forward," the younger Rosales said. "[I was thinking,] 'OK, great, I called up to Double-A, but what's next?'"
William Rosales, who was born in Mexico and is fluent in Spanish, had two words for his son.
"'Haz huellas.' Make footprints," Rosales said. "Just a simple image like that. Think about that, like, 'Make a mark.' That's pretty inspiring. You make a mark in more ways than just physically. You put your grit into it, you put everything you have into it to make a mark. That's my blood, you know?"
Rosales is honoring two promises -- not just the one he made to his father, but one he made to himself, as a Little Leaguer growing up in Park Ridge, Ill., rounding the bases for the very first time.
Megan Zahneis is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.