FORT MYERS, FLA. – Glynis Payne won three letters in track and field and four in volleyball for the Carthage College Lady Reds in the early 1980s. She was inducted into the Carthage Athletic of Hall of Fame as Glynis Payne-Walker in 1999.
“My mom was the national high jump champion in Division III one year and runner-up the next,” Twins prospect Adam Brett Walker said. “In high school, she was outstanding in basketball, as well as track and volleyball.”
Does that mean that Adam and his father were competing to be the second-best athlete in a three-person immediate family?
Walker nodded and said: “There was a very good chance of that.”
Adam Walker (Dad) was the tailback on the football team, and Glynis was a two-sport star when they met at the small Lutheran college in Kenosha, Wis. Later, Adam played in two games with five carries for 24 yards as a Vikings replacement player during the 1987 strike.
The only child arrived in October 1991. To differentiate the youngster from his father, relatives and family friends addressed him with the middle name:
“When I filled out paperwork for baseball, I wrote ‘Adam Brett’ out of habit, and that became my professional name,” he said. “I like the way it sounds.”
Why not? There’s great credibility in Brett as a baseball name.
It’s hard to tell whether the Twins stumbled into it or there was an orchestrated plan, but there has been a significant shift in hitting approach. An organization that was long accused of trying to turn all hitters into Joe Mauer-like, opposite-field guys now is getting a Houston Astros look to it:
Big power, big strikeouts.
There’s one of those hitters who is sure to be a star, Miguel Sano, and there are others who are suspects for the 2016 Twins: Byung Ho Park from the Korea Baseball Organization, and Oswaldo Arcia and Kenny Vargas attempting comebacks from lost 2015 seasons.
Over the long term, Adam Brett Walker might be more of a curiosity than Park, Arcia and Vargas combined. Walker’s home run and RBI numbers are eye-catching, and his strikeout numbers are beyond that.
Walker has the look of a basketball player at a fraction over 6-foot-4 and with a sleek frame. He played basketball, football and baseball at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.
“As a kid, playing all the sports, I always preferred baseball,” he said. “Maybe the fact my dad’s cousin, Damion Easley, was a major league player had something to do with it. We went to a few of his games and I’d hope that could be me some day.”
Walker was not taken in the amateur draft out of high school. He went Jacksonville University in Florida.
Concentrating on one sport, he hit the weights harder than ever before and started to show power. He hit 44 home runs in three seasons for the Dolphins and was drafted in the third round in 2012 by the Twins.
Walker has moved up one rung per season in the minor league system, with these totals. 2012 in rookie ball Elizabethton: 14 home runs, 45 RBI, .250 average, 76 strikeouts in 232 at-bats. 2013 in Class A Cedar Rapids: 27 HR, 109 RBI, .278, 115 Ks in 508 ABs. 2014 in high Class A Fort Myers: 25 HR, 94 RBI, .246, 156 Ks in 506 ABs. 2015 in Class AA Chattanooga: 31 HR, 106 RBI, .239, 195 Ks in 502 at-bats.
The prodigious power has placed him on the 40-player roster for this season.
Doug Mientkiewicz, Walker’s manager the past two seasons, was asked last September: If Walker and Sano hit their best shot, which one travels farther?
Mientkiewicz praised Sano’s might and talent as a hitter and several other qualities, and then said, “But best shot … Walker’s goes farther.”
Chad Allen was Mientkiewicz’s hitting coach in Fort Myers and Chattanooga and is moving up to Class AAA this season.
Walker and Allen had a couple of gentlemen’s bets in Chattanooga: “If Adam swung at fewer than 10 pitches below his knees in 10 days, he won dinner from me. If not, he owed me dinner. Also, for every 15 hits he had to right field, I owed him dinner. If he stays on the outside pitch, he can still drive it out to right field.”
Walker has been working out and taking batting practice with early arrivers this week at the Twins complex. He was asked about Allen’s attempt to get him off the pitch below the knees.
“I like to hit the low pitch, and the pitchers keep working me lower to see if I’ll chase it,” Walker said. “When I’m hitting well, I have a plate discipline. I have to be more consistent with that.”
Allen was the hitting coach for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League last year, a team with Walker and six other Twins prospects that won the AFL championship.
“Adam hit one in a game at our park … there’s a berm that has to be 50 yards behind the left field fence, and he hit it over the berm,” Allen said. “One of our coaches who had been in baseball a long time said, ‘Chad, that might be the farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit.’
“Obviously, with those strikeout numbers, Adam’s still in the process. But if he continues to learn what a pitcher is trying to do to him, and stays aggressive in the zone where ‘he’ likes the ball …
“I’m telling you, raw power, the only guy I ever saw who hits ’em where Adam hits it when he gets one was Mark McGwire.”