Daytona Roundup: Chris Walker

Center fielder Chris Walker was recently named to the 2005 Florida State League All-Star game with Class-A Daytona. The 24-year-old Walker, a sixth round pick in the 2002 draft, is currently batting .285 with a .348 OBP and 30 stolen bases. Inside The Ivy recently caught up with Walker and got a rundown of his All-Star season.

"You know, it's been ok," said a humble Walker, when asked how satisfied he is with his season to date. "I'm not completely where I want to be. I wish I was hitting a little better and that my strikeouts were down."

This season, Walker has whiffed 60 times (second on the team behind Kevin Collins' 77) while drawing 19 walks; a season ago at Lansing, he struck out 78 times. At the rate he's going now, Walker is sure to shatter that mark.

But the hits keep on coming. The leadoff hitter leads his team with 76 hits, 22 of which have gone for extra bases.

"I look at myself more as a spray hitter," said Walker, a Georgia Southern alumnus who turns 25 in less than a month. "I try to hit it wherever it's hit. Sometimes guys will try to bust me in and I'll hit the ball to left or left-center. The bottom line, though, I'm a table-setter. I try to get on for our guys like (Brian) Dopirak, (Scott) Moore, and Collins."

And he's done that relatively well this season.

Walker's OBP is currently the third highest mark on the team behind only Collins and Moore--also an All-Star and 2002 draft pick having the best year of his minor league career since being traded in the Kyle Farnsworth deal with Detroit earlier this year.

Setting the table isn't the only thing Walker could brag about, either.

"I take a lot of pride in my defense," he said. "I want our pitchers to have the confidence where if the ball is hit to center, they know I'll be there. I don't have the strongest arm in the world, but I work a lot on having a quick release and being very accurate with all of my throws."

One of the things new to Walker's surroundings at Daytona is the excess amount of rain. Already this season, the Cubs have been dealt a plethora of cancellations as the result of Mother Nature.

They were fortunate enough to miss the bulk of Tropical Storm Arlene last week, but Walker admits the postponements have been difficult to deal with all season.

"Yeah, you know it's frustrating," Walker said. "We'll start hitting the ball, get on a roll, and all of a sudden you have to take a day off here and sometimes more. It throws you into a funk. It's tough, but we find ways to get through it."

A big part of Walker's success this year has been more hands-on experience with Cubs Roving Outfield and Baserunning Instructor Vince Coleman. Walker says the two of them are similar in how they play (or played) the game, and that Coleman's presence has made for more smoother sailing.

"Vince took me under his wing," Walker said. "He's helped tremendously with my hitting and bunting and he was much the same player I am. It has made a huge difference.

"You know, I've been working so hard since I got here. I have to give a lot of credit to (hitting coach) Mike Micucci and really to the entire staff at Lansing last year. Those guys really helped me out."

Daytona manager Richie Zisk will manage the Eastern Division All-Stars in this year's contest, which is set for Saturday at 7:15 p.m. EDT from Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla. Both Micucci and pitching coach Mike Anderson will represent the East as coaches. Zisk himself is a former major league All-Star with the White Sox and Rangers.

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