Walker's Wednesdays: The Challenge

Chris Walker listens. He listens to coaches, trainers, players, and of course, his mom. So when sizing up the '06 season and realizing his strikeout totals had to be cut, it was Mrs. Walker who came up with the plan, and Chris who has to execute.

Spring Training is right around the corner and I'm counting down the days until I report. It's funny; I've been training for months and I still feel like there are certain parts of my game that I need to work on.

My strength has increased from working with my personal trainer, Alex Huisman. Mentally, I feel prepared for whatever is thrown at me and my arm has gotten stronger. The one part of my game that I've paid a lot of attention to is my plate discipline.

For those who don't know, I got the chance to play winter ball in Mexico this past off season. I learned so much in one month. The first thing I learned was the importance of each at-bat. Things are different in winter ball than regular season ball in the States.

If you get off to a bad start in this league, you will be sent home in a heartbeat. So, my hitting coach in Guasave, Jack Pierce, took me under his wing and gave me a few pointers. He told me to take this game one pitch at a time and to treat every at-bat like it was my last. I've heard that many times, but it never hit me like it did in Mexico. After 12 games, I was hitting .280 and was leading the league in stolen bases, but out of nowhere I got released from the team.

That's a story for another day. It had nothing to do with my performance, but that experience made me realize that I have to focus every pitch every at bat. I also learned the importance of a 1-for-4 game. A 1-for-4 game will help you stay closer to a. 300 batting average then an 0-for-4 span.

I will take these things that I learned and apply them to this season. I talked to Pookie Wilson, an ex-coach for the Kansas City Royals organization, who talked to me about my performance last season. We talked about my strikeout total and how to improve on that part of my game. He told me that when he played, he struck out once out of every 12 at-bats.

He told me that with my speed alone, I should hit .280. I laughed and told him that I hit .282 and .284 the last two seasons. He got serious and told me that I need to improve my plate discipline and if I did so there would be nothing stopping me from getting to the show this year..

So, this season my concentration will be high on every pitch and every at-bat. If I do this, I know I will be able to cut down on my strikeouts and improve my on base percentage.

I've always challenged myself when it comes to this game. Each season I start out with high goals. For example, this year I want to lead my league in batting average (.330 would be a great mark), runs scored, stolen bases, and on base percentage. I set high goals during the off season and I try my best to achieve them.

Last year I led the league in stolen bases, triples and runs scored, so I know I'm on the right track. The one part of my game that will look different this year is my strikeout totals. I struck out way too much last year and I know that if I want a chance to play at the Major League level, I need to cut down on them and improve my on base percentage.

So out of all people to give me a challenge, my mother gave me a good one. She challenged me to have more stolen bases than strikeouts this season. I laughed at first and then it hit me: I struck out 111 times last year and only had 60 stolen bases. Now the best thing about her challenge is that it comes with a CASH incentive at the end of the season! I love my mom, but she is going to have to PAY UP at the end of the season!

Tat will be my challenge this year and hopefully this will help to pave my way to Chicago.

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