Everyone loves a good baseball story and boy, are there plenty of baseball story types. The redemption arc, the wonderful comeback, the career turnaround, overcoming adversity, and more. The oddball stories are probably my favorite, the ones that combine elements from many of the story types into one journey. Those stories don’t come along all that often, but when they do they deserve to be talked about. We’ve spent the better part of two years talking about what Adam Brett Walker II has done on the baseball field but exactly what he has done warrants further discussion.
Before we get to present-day Walker it’s important to recognize the Walker who was shuffled out of affiliated ball. The player with immense talent who simply could not stop striking out. He of the prodigious power and huge swing who struggled mightily when he finally reached the upper affiliated levels of multiple Major League Baseball clubs. By 2017, it appeared as if the book had been written on the right-handed slugger; a middling fielder with plenty of pop in his bat who makes far too little contact to make the pop worth the roster slot.
When Walker found himself out of affiliated ball and in the new land of unaffiliated ball he could have coasted on name alone. After a brief and forgettable stint with the Kansas City T-Bones the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native found himself brought into the fold of the American Association’s newest expansion team, the Milwaukee Milkmen. He was being brought in to provide a local name to hopefully draw some fans to Routine Field, as it was then known. The Milkmen needed Walker to hit some dingers and keep the fans happy, nothing more than that.
Throughout 2019 that’s exactly what Walker did. In 391 plate appearances, he slashed .249/.299/.478, hit 22 bombs, and struck out 114 times. It was clear that Milkmen fans liked Walker and the story of his return to his home to smash baseballs resonated with fans. The fact of the matter is that Walker could have gotten by for many years in this new role. Like clockwork, he could have shown up for the season, hit some dingers, and made the fans happy while bringing in bigger gates for Milkmen ownership.
Walker could have skated, but he decided that was not the path for him. In a pandemic shortened 2020 he put together a fantastic season for the Milkmen. He slashed .268/.320/.609 in 241 plate appearances with another 22 bombs and only 75 strikeouts. This was genuine progress, the sort that earned Walker AA Player of the Year honors as he helped guide the Milkmen to a championship. Everyone paying attention to Walker saw that he had put in a lot of work and was still working on changing his approach at the plate.
Caimanes de Barranquilla paid attention to what Walker was doing and he found himself plying his trade for the winter ball club in both Liga Colombiana de Béisbol Profesional and Serie del Caribe. He was solid during the LCBP regular season, leading the league with 5 home runs. Though, he wasn’t active during the playoffs and ended up supplying the dreaded .000/.000/.000 slash line during his 11 Serie del Caribe plate appearances. Still, all told the 2020-2021 season had been a success for Walker and he had shown throughout the year that his gameplan was now to employ a more selective approach at the plate.
To say that his new approach paid off in 2021 would be an understatement. With the Milkmen he slashed .320/.369/.636 in 445 plate appearances. He hit a league record 33 home runs, and only struck out 87 times. He even added in 24 stolen bases and a 92.3 SB%. Walker looked amazing all year long and his new patience at the plate allowed him to come up big for the Milkmen in crucial situations. The Milkmen came up short of another AA title, but Walker took home his second AA PotY award. He earned every second of that award and no one who watched him on a daily basis could deny the improvements he had made as a hitter.
As of right now, Walker has not signed with a team for the winter. I hope he does and if he does he should continue to excel. Adam Brett Walker II is not the same player as the Adam Walker from affiliated baseball. He’s spent the past few years transforming himself as a hitter to the point where there’s no reason he shouldn’t get a second shot at affiliated baseball. Sure, he still has the big looping swing, but he’s countered that with a patient approach that maximizes his power and cuts down on his strikeouts. Do I selfishly want to see Walker back in a Milkmen jersey in 2022? Of course, I do. At the same time I, and anyone who has been watching Walker, realize he is ready to take that next step. If he doesn’t show it in Serie del Caribe this season then he should get to show it with an MLB club next year.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Milwaukee Milkmen