TUESDAY, JUNE 03, 2014
Former Dolphin & Twins prospect Walker featured in News Press
In a recent piece by David Dorsey for the News Press in Southwest Florida, the former Jacksonville University standout continues to shine for the Fort Myers Miracle. Read the article below
Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).
Adam Brett Walker II has something about him.
His manager sees it. His high school and college coaches have raved about it. His parents raised it.
The Fort Myers Miracle right fielder and power hitter isn’t flashy and often wears navy blue stirrups over his white socks, a baseball fashion trend that ended two decades ago.
He doesn’t pump his fists or give rah-rah speeches or curse or do anything to draw attention to himself except for one thing. He hits baseballs over fences.
“The way I can describe Adam Brett is that he is a young man with an old man’s soul,” said Glynis Walker, Adam’s mother. “The stirrups fit right in with his personality. He’s an only child. So he was always very mature for his age.”
The 6-foot-4, 223-pound, 22-year-old could have been the Minnesota Twins’ minor league player of the year last season.
Instead, he had one of the least-talked-about breakout parties by a Twins prospect. Overshadowed by Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, two of the top six prospects, Walker excelled for the low Class A Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels of the Midwest League.
He hit .278 (141-for-508) with 31 doubles, 27 home runs and 109 RBI, the second-highest RBI total in minor league baseball for 2013.
“He had a great year last year,” Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz said before acknowledging Walker’s slower start this season.
Through his first 51 Miracle games entering Saturday, Walker led the Florida State League in home runs with 12, including the two he hit Friday night. He ranked second in RBI with 38. But he was hitting just .236 (47-for-199) with 16 walks while ranking fourth in the league with 60 strikeouts.
“I think we all knew that this level would be a big test for him,” Mientkiewicz said. “A lot of guys put up really good numbers in the Midwest League and then struggle in the Florida State League. But the last couple of weeks, he’s not chasing balls out of the strike zone. He’s just being more aggressive. When he swings at strikes, he’s dangerous.”
Walker said he wasn’t thinking about home runs and RBI.
“The main thing is just looking for good pitches to hit,” Walker said. “My numbers will start to come around now that I’m starting to see the ball better. I’m just trying to keep working to become a better hitter, and we’ll see where I end up.”
Walker’s imposing stature and plate presence do not match his personality, which best could be described as a quiet cool.
Although he sometimes gets his uniform dirty, he otherwise comes across as squeaky clean. A Christian, Walker wears a silver cross around his neck, a gift from his aunt six years ago. He said he never takes it off.
“He’s never gotten in trouble,” said Glynis Walker, a college volleyball and Division III national champion high jumper at Carthage College in the early 1980s. “He’s never done anything wrong. We used to have to make up stuff so that he would know the word ‘No.’ That’s the honest to goodness truth.”
Mientkiewicz said he and the Twins have no problem with Walker’s personality.
“His teammates love him,” Mientkiewicz said. “You always have to have a couple of guys like rocks. At times, you’d like to see him show a little more emotion, but there are plenty of guys in the big leagues who have big personalities. You’ve got to balance that out one way or another.
“Perception is reality. What you show might not be who you really are. The one thing about Walker is he works hard every day. He wants to get better. Just because he’s quiet doesn’t mean he isn’t competitive.”
Walker announced his competitiveness at the end of this past spring training. Summoned by the Twins as a substitute for a big-league starter in the late innings of a game at JetBlue Park, Walker launched a baseball over the near-replica Green Monster wall against the Boston Red Sox. His parents sat in the stands while visiting from their Milwaukee home.
“It was very surreal because the ball came off the bat so fast, and it got out of the park so fast, that probably everybody in the park didn’t recognize what was happening,” Glynis Walker said. “But I did because I’ve been watching Adam Brett his whole life.
“I jumped up and said, ‘Wow!’ I was so excited. The whole ballpark was silent for a moment.”
Walker’s father, fumbling a camera, missed seeing the ball fly out of the ballpark. Adam Brett Walker I, however, said he would have plenty more opportunities to see his son homer.
“My advice to him is not to worry about the next step,” said Walker I, who was an NFL replacement running back for the Minnesota Vikings in 1987 and is the defensive coordinator at Concordia University.
“The Twins have a plan,” Walker I said. “When it’s his turn, they’ll let him know.”
Walker II has taken advantage of his turns.
At Jacksonville University, Walker led the Dolphins his junior season in 2011 in batting average (.343), hits (72), runs (44), doubles (14), homers (12), RBI (42) and on-base percentage (.426).
“He kept to himself, but he absolutely loved baseball,” said Jacksonville coach Tim Montez, whose 12-year-old son has a poster of Walker hanging in his bedroom.
Montez recruited Walker out of Milwaukee Lutheran High, where he was a catcher.
“He was a pretty darn good high school quarterback, too,” Montez said. “In baseball, he had some raw power and probably the best raw power that I’ve seen in 27 years of coaching. I’ve been very blessed to be around some good programs and good players over the years. But I’ve seen him hit some baseballs that just left me shaking my head.”
Bob Heinkel, 61 and Milwaukee Lutheran’s varsity baseball coach, said Walker has stood out among the hundreds of players he has coached.
“He was clearly the best power hitter I’ve had in 40 years,” Heinkel said. “He’s right at the top.”
Walker has been able to make smooth transitions to each level. Heinkel has seen those transitions since first coaching him at age 7 at a youth baseball camp.
“Well, as far as the transition, I think he has made good strides,” Heinkel said. “I think his upside still remains. He’s got power and leverage. He’s going to be able to throw the ball with the very best of them.”
When Heinkel holds his annual youth camp this summer, he planned to talk about Walker.
“I coach hundreds and hundreds of kids each summer, and I can point to him as a role model, and an excellent role model at that,” Heinkel said. “His faith and his example are just wonderful to see as he continues to develop.”
Walker’s mother had trouble coming up with any misdeeds for her son, but Heinkel easily thought of the only trouble he ever had with him.
“Here’s the worst thing I can come up with,” Heinkel said. “When he was a sophomore, playing on varsity, we had a game that started at 1 o’clock on Saturday, and the junior varsity had a game at 11 o’clock. So he went over to cheer them on. He got so involved in cheering them on, that he came a few minutes late for our pregame. He was kind of petrified when he realized he had messed up. He was worried about how he was going to affect the team being a sophomore and so forth.
“He got carried away caring about others.”