Pair Todd Walker’s bat with Darwin Barney’s glove and you’d have one heck of a second baseman.
Walker, who manned second for the Cubs from 2004-06, had a consistent and productive swing that the team's current second baseman, Barney, has yet to show.
Now retired, Walker returned to Wrigley Field recently for former teammate Kerry Wood’s charity Wiffle ball game, Woody’s Wiffle Ball Classic, which airs Monday from 7-8:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.
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"It's really cool to be standing on the field again. It's been seven years,” said Walker, whom the Cubs traded to San Diego in 2006. “It looks great. This is my favorite ballpark in the county. I'm having a blast being back."
The left-handed hitter had a .289 average and .348 on-base percentage in 12 solid major league seasons. And it was with a tiny Wiffle ball that Walker says he learned to hit.
“Me and my brother in the backyard…Actually I credit a lot of what I did in baseball to [Wiffle ball] because we would use the little Wiffle golf balls,” Walker said. “You set up a chair and you use a broomstick. And we could throw curveballs. That ball darts, you get used to hitting that. Now all of a sudden you go to a real baseball, it's not so hard.”
Walker now coaches a private high school baseball team whose field is steps from his home in Shreveport, La.
“I've got a cage back home at our high school where I fire these little [Wiffle] balls at them,” Walker said. “It's a hand-eye coordination type deal, getting your eye focused on something small and then it's less difficult to hit something bigger."
At the Aug. 10 event, Walker was able to reunite with a number of old teammates, including Wood, Derrek Lee, Moises Alou, Glendon Rusch and Michael Barrett. All were part of the 2004 Cubs team that won 89 games but collapsed at the end of the year to finish third in the division.
A year earlier, Walker was part of the ‘03 Boston Red Sox team that lost the ALCS to the Yankees in seven games.
"I was Theo [Epstein’s] first trade when he was with Boston,” Walker said. “He got me up to Boston. I pull for Theo Epstein and his group and the Ricketts, of course. I've gotten to know them over the years. They're super people. I'm pulling for them.”
Walker wasn’t fully up-to-date on the Cubs renovation plans for Wrigley Field, though he did offer a few thoughts about playing at Wrigley.
“It's tough here,” he said. “A lot of day games. You've got to be real disciplined to play here.”