PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Life in the minor leagues can take players anywhere and getting the chance to play close to where you were raised is pretty rare.
So after stops in Burlington, North Carolina, Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Lexington, Kentucky, Haddonfield Memorial High product Johnny Walter is savoring the opportunity these days to play for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, about 40 miles from where he grew up in South Jersey.
“It’s really nice to come home and you are kind of able to unwind and then wake up the next day and do it all over again,” Walter tells KYW Newsradio.
And playing close to home obviously agrees with him.
Walter, a right-handed pitcher who played his college ball at Penn State, was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 29th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. This year for the Blue Rocks, Kansas City’s High Class-A affiliate in the Carolina League, Walter has gone 5-1 out of the bullpen with a 3.58 ERA in 20 games. Just 23-years-old, he’s already filled a variety of roles on the mound.
“Whatever they throw at me, I’ll be willing to do,” Walter says. “Whatever keeps me moving up the ladder. Started (games) in college and had some success there and closing (in 2012 & 2013 in minors) I felt comfortable, but whatever they throw at me.”
Two keys to success for Walter in the pros thus far: keeping the ball in the ballpark and throwing strikes. In 92.2 innings of work as a pro, Walter has allowed just two home runs and walked just 23 batters, while striking out 98. He doesn’t hesitate when asked what his focus is these days.
“Most importantly, repeating my delivery,” Walter says. “I know my pitches will move, I know they will do what they can do after it releases out of my hand. But repeating delivery and getting it to that release point was huge for me and just overall throwing strikes and competing.”
Every kid that plays baseball dreams of going pro, but very, very few get the chance to realize that dream. Walter talks about when he started realizing he could be one of the few to see that come to pass.
“Realistically,” Walter says, “sophomore, junior year of college, I really thought this was a feasible option and definitely could be a future. And so far it’s worked out. Done all the right things.”
Walter and the rest of the Blue Rocks wrap up a series with Lynchburg on Monday.
Johnny Walter spoke with Matt Leon about his experiences with the Blue Rocks.