Walker's Wednesday's: The Past and Future

This time of year, everyone is looking forward, and Chris Walker is no different. He's anxious, he's excited, and he's ready for the start of spring training. But he also knows where he came from, knows how he got here, and this week Chris takes a look back -- honoring those who came before him, and those that brought him into the world.

Major league Spring training starts in three days and the anticipation is at an all time high for me this season. The off-season training with my personal trainer Alex Huisman; hitting with Jemel Spearman and Jeff Albert; running with Michael Barrett; and reading built up my mental game.

I look forward to this upcoming season. Before I can look forward, I want to take a step back. I would like to take time out and thank those who came before me in this game.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson set foot on a Major League baseball field. This forever changed the face of Major League Baseball and marked the first time that an African-American played professional baseball along side of white players. Before this time, blacks were not allowed to play professional baseball. Due to these circumstances, the Negro Leagues were created.

The all-black baseball league presented an opportunity for blacks to play the game that was denied to them. Teams such as the Kansas City Monarchs, Birmingham Black Barons, Atlanta Black Crackers, and Pittsburgh Crawfords were formed so that these players could play.

There were great players who played in this league. Players that many people today never got to the chance to see play. One of my favorites is James "Cool Papa" Bell, who was said to be so fast that he could hit the light switch and be in bed before the light went out.

As I prepare for Spring Training, I think about those who played years in the Negro Leagues and eventually paved the way for me when they broke the color barrier in major league baseball. If it were not for pioneers such as Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays, I would never have had the opportunity to play this game.

Before I step on the field, I think about what these men did for this game and what they did for players like me. They were brave men who sacrificed a lot to play this game, and gave players like me an opportunity to live my dream.

My commitment to the game is not only to the pioneers, but also to my family. Baseball runs in my family. It all started with my grandfather: Willie Young. He played for the Greenwood Sluggers (a semi-pro team out of Mississippi) and because of the times, he couldn't play at a higher level.

But he passed his love of the game to his sons Willie Young, Jr. and Glen Young. My grandfather got the chance to see his two sons play at the collegiate level. My uncle, Willie Young, Jr., was elected into the Mississippi Semi-Pro Sports Hall of fame for Baseball. Glen Young went on to enjoy a nice career in the NFL.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed before I played my first college game and never got the opportunity to watch me play college or professional baseball. We were very close and I know that he would be proud. I've taken the torch that was passed from my grandfather to my uncles. I'm carrying on the legacy that my grandfather started and I give the game everything that I have because I know that he's still watching me at this time.

So to say that my anticipation for this season is at an all-time high is an understatement. I'm carrying a lot of emotion and pride into this season. I'm ready and very excited about reporting to spring training in a few weeks. I'm ready to step up my game and looking to contribute at the Major League level.

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