Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Larry Walker in the Rockies: From hockey enthusiast to Baseball Hall of Fame member

Maybe Larry Walker is destined to become a baseball player.

Otherwise, why would the god of baseball bless children from Canada with a thunderous bat, base speed, instinct, and an arm that releases lightning from the right field?

On Wednesday, Walker will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. But before he became a Larry legend and the first Rocky Mountain player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Walker just wanted to play hockey.

“As a Canadian, you were born in this world with a stick in your hand and roller skates on your feet,” said Walker, a native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia. “So this is how I was when I was a kid. You played hockey, that’s what really matters.”

At the age of 16, with the dream of becoming an NHL goalkeeper, he was invited to the training camp by Regina Pats of the Junior A Western Hockey League. If he joins the team, scouts will notice. But he was chopped. He was invited back the following year, but failed again.

“When I was eliminated for the second year in a row, I had the opportunity to go to Swift Current,” he recalled. “I drove into the city, parked at the skating rink, looked around, I don’t know why, but I said,’Do you know? This is not for me. I decided not to play hockey.

“We turned around and drove back to our home in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, and it was over. At that time, baseball came knocking on my door. I didn’t knock on its door.”

Walker’s father, Larry Sr., played semi-professional baseball. Walker, his father, and his brothers-Barry, Carey and Gary-often participate in the fastball softball league together. Walker never played baseball at Maple Ridge High School because there was no team there. He played volleyball and hockey in high school.

He learned basic baseball skills in the Canadian Amateur League in Vancouver, roughly equivalent to the American Senior Babe Ruth League.

In the summer of 1984, Walker played for the Coquitlam Redskins in Vancouver, was selected for the Canadian national team, and participated in the 1984 World Youth Championship in Kingsley, Saskatchewan. In November of that year, Walker received a call from Bob Rogers. Bob Rogers was an Expo scout. He signed a minor league contract with Walker with a signing bonus of $1,500.

He spent most of his time with minors from 1985 to 1989, scoring 0.274 with 73 home runs and 258 hits in 437 games.

In 1985, in his first professional season, he scored 0.223 points in two home runs in 62 games during his loan to the non-affiliated Utica Blue Sox of the Pennsylvania League in New York.

“I never saw a fork ball, never saw a slider,” Walker recalled. “I don’t know they exist. I have never really seen a good curveball. In Canada, when we were young, we played 10 games a year, maybe 15 baseball games.”

In 1986, Jeff Huson played Class A with Walker in Burlington, Iowa. The two then became teammates at Triple-A in Indianapolis in 1989, and worked briefly with the World Expo later that season. Hewson was struck by Walker’s talent and his ability to control the game.

“Larry was born, but you can see what a great athlete he is,” said Hewson, who is now a Rocky Mountain analyst for AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. “I remember they tried out on him at third base, but his arm was so strong that he kept throwing the ball on the first baseman’s head. Sometimes it ended up in the stands. So they put him on. Outfield.”

Walker believes that Ralvro helped him become a hitter in the major leagues. Luo is the head coach of the World Expo organization. During the 1995 season and the following winters, Walker honed his skills when Luo’s men played in the Florida Teaching League.

Once Walker began to understand the nuances of the game, his athleticism began to show.

“When I talked about Larry, I said he was the best athlete I have ever worked with,” said former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. “I have also played (college) football and played with some great athletes, but this man is omnipotent.

“Of course, he is a golden gloved outfielder with a cannon, but what he does best is running. very impressive.”

Larry Walker

Montreal Expo: 1989-1993, 674 games
Colorado Rocky Mountains: 1994-2004, 1,170 games
St. Louis Cardinals: 2004-05, 144 games
Major League debut: August 11, 1989 vs. San Francisco Giants
The last game of the regular season: October 2, 2005 against the Cincinnati Reds

Referenceable

Those who play baseball with Walker or watch his game are often surprised by his skills:

“An amazing talent. People always talk about the term “five-tool player” casually, which they shouldn’t. But I tell people that Larry is not only a five-tool player; he is in all five categories All elites.” — Walt Weiss, former Rocky Mountain player and manager, was Walker’s teammate in Colorado during the 1995-97 season.

Larry Walker in the Rockies: From hockey enthusiast to Baseball Hall of Fame member
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