The media is talking to Walker at 10 a.m., but here’s a Q&A he did with Baseball Beginnings in March.
Here’s today’s draft story from Walker’s hometown paper, the Inland Valley Bulletin: “I got the chills,” Walker told the paper. “I’ve never had that feeling before.”
Walker graduates tomorrow from Yucaipa High School. The story notes that he had only pitched four games at the high school level before this season and calls him a classic high-risk, high-reward pick. I’d agree with that.
I talked last night to Jeff Stout, Walker’s coach at Yucaipa High School, which is near San Bernardino, Calif. For those who are wondering why Walker, a basketball star at Yucaipa (he was nicknamed “Sky Walker”) doesn’t have many college options, Stout gave some good insight. He told me that Walker was “a D-1 (basketball) prospect, definitely,” but explained that “he comes from a tougher home situation.”
His father moved to Texas, and he’s being raised by his mother along with three other siblings.
“It’s a tough situation,” Stout said. “His home life hindered him from being a real good student. He’s not a dumb kid, but when you’re struggling to put food on the table, it’s a tougher situation. As a freshman and sophomore, he didn’t have good guidance as far as academics. Then as a junior and senior, when he was looking at college basketball, that hindered him.”
I want to stress that everyone I talked to — Stout, area scout John Ramey, and Mariners’ scouting director Tom McNamara — said Walker has good character.
“He’s a very nice kid,” Stout said. “Very well mannered and soft spoken. He’s a heck of a competitor on the field or on the court, but off the court, it’s yes sir, no sir.”
Said Ramey, the Mariner scout assigned to Walker: “He’s a good kid, kind of a quiet leader. The kids gravitated toward him and liked him.”
One thing that’s clear to me is that Walker should not be an overly difficult sign for the Mariners. He is represented by Larry Reynolds, and he wants to play pro baseball.
In the Inland Empire article, Stout compared Walker favorably to another SoCal pitcher, Dylan Covey, who was picked No. 14 overall yesterday by the Brewers. Stout saw them both pitch in a fall league game sponsored by the Angels.
“I couldn’t tell a difference. Covey threw his stuff, Taijuan threw his stuff and they were both awesome,” Stout said.
“And Covey’s been a pitcher for a while.”
Walker is the second consecutive supplemental-round pick out of Yucaipa. Last year, his teammate Matt Davidson , an infielder, went to the Diamondbacks (No. 35 overall).
“Taijuan saw what happened to Matt, got wrapped up in that, and said, ‘That’s really what I want. It’s something I want to go and do.’ This is really a dream come true for him,” Stout told me last night.