The California football team has been racking up the commitments lately, but quietly, the Cal baseball team has scored its first commitment since the end of the playoff run with the June 29 pledge of 2016 shortstop Anthony Walters out of Tustin (Calif.).
As a sophomore at La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Walters was offered by national-seed UCLA, but he turned that down, and, a year later, after transferring to Tustin, he scored an offer from the Bears, and pounced on it.
“I was a little too young to make my choice,” Walters said. “I was only a sophomore. Cal was just the best fit for me, and I’m glad that’s what I chose, and that I chose to wait. I loved the coaching staff, and the campus is beautiful. What they had to offer me, whether it’s the practices they run, the academics, it was just, wow.”
The offer from the Bruins came with a shot clock, and a month after UCLA offered, the Bruins decided to move on to other candidates. That left the door open for Cal pitching coach Mike Neu, who saw Walters at the Junior Olympics last month.
“Cal started talking to me a week or two ago at the J.O.’s (Junior Olympics). I had a fantastic game,” Walters said on July 1. “They came out and saw me, called me throughout the week, and asked me if I wanted to go up for a visit. It was this past Monday, I went up and they offered me.”
Walters has started at shortstop on the varsity level for three years, including two at Amat – where he transferred from after the head coach left – and one this past year for the Tillers, where he hit .312 with nine doubles, hitting .350 in league and earning Second-Team All-Empire League honors.
Walters – who also had interest from USC, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, San Jose State and Cal State-Northridge -- has worked for years with personal coach Eric Martins, a scout for the Oakland Athletics and a former infield prospect for the A’s, who, after being drafted in the 17th round of the 1994 MLB Draft out of Long Beach State, went on to play professionally for 10 years.
“He was a big influence on me,” Walters said. “I’ve been working with him my whole life, and he just pushed me to be my greatest, and it was my decision, where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know I was going to end up at Cal, and he didn’t either, but it worked out. He was glad it happened.”
When Walters arrives on campus, along with other 2016 prospects Max Flower, Jared Horn, Chris Murphy, Rogelio Reyes and Andrew Vaughn, he’ll be competing against Preston GrandPre -- who started every game at shortstop as a true freshman this season, and will be a junior in 2017 -- and 2015 signee Ripken Reyes.
“It depends on what he decides to do, whether he’s going to the draft or staying, but they told me, no matter what, that I’d have an opportunity to compete for the shortstop job,” Walters said.
Neu was honest about the position battle, and that was one of the reasons why Walters was so taken with Cal’s recruiting ace.
“Coach Neu, he was fantastic throughout the whole process,” Walters said. “He made me feel like, ‘You’re a great player, we’d love to have you here,’ and that’s what I’m looking for. I want a school that wants me to be there, not just, ‘You’re a good player, so you should come.’ I want them to want me to be there, and that’s what he did.”