Colorado Rockies great Larry Walker knew the question was coming. There was no way that a return to Coors Field on Saturday would keep it away. So when the subject of the Hall of Fame and playing at altitude was brought up, Walker took a breath, collected his thoughts and shared his heart.
Does Walker deserve a spot in Cooperstown or not? That is a question that rages often within baseball circles, especially when it comes for Hall of Fame voting. With Walker in town, he was returning to not only the scene of some of his greatest moments as a player during his 17-year Major League career but also to the park that lessens some of those moments in the eyes of many Hall of Fame voters.
"“I realize what Coors did for part of my career,” Walker told Rox Pile and other media members behind the Coors Field batting cage on Saturday. “Do you punish the player for the ballpark he played in? As history I think has shown, that hasn’t existed. There are some people who I think are in Hall of Fame who benefitted for where they played as well. I think that’s fair to say. Until they get rid of that, ‘you punish a player for where he plays,’ then there’s no chance.”"
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In 10 years in a Rockies uniform, Walker collected an MVP nod (1997, still the only MVP in Rockies franchise history) and four All-Star appearances. Take a look at his numbers and you’ll see a talented player who was pivotal in the early years of the Colorado franchise. Those numbers are torn apart, debated and put under a microscope. That is something Walker knows he will always be dealing with until Cooperstown (hopefully) makes a place for his plaque.
"“It’s like people saying, ‘Do you get tired of signing autographs or taking pictures?’ It comes with the job. It’s part of the territory. You live with it. You deal with it. You accept it. I’ll talk about it as best as I can as I stumble around how to say the right answers. As I state in some interviews, I agree with a lot of things they’re saying and I don’t agree with a lot of things they’re saying. I’m on both sides of the fence. I get it.”"
Walker’s numbers are impressive and put him in the category of one of the most talented players to step on the field in recent memory. He is absolutely one of the finest Rockies to ever play but quickly slaps away any thought that he is one of the best players to ever put on a uniform.
"“Maybe one of the greatest Canadian players ever, maybe that one I can handle,” Walker chuckled. “The other ones, for my ego, they don’t exist. I just tried to come out and win ball games. That’s all I can say on that one because it’s talking about me, which I can’t stand to do, so you write something nice.”"
One of the things that stands out to Walker the most is the energy that surged within Colorado baseball fans during the early years of the franchise … and still does on many nights in LoDo.
"“The energy that the ballpark held, even over at Mile High when I came in as an Expo, was one of the reasons why I wanted to play here,” Walker said. “My years in Montreal, we had troubles drawing fans, getting 5,000 a game. Then you play in front of 80,000 fans. Wow.”"
Walker hopes to see that surge of energy return for a second consecutive Rocktober this season. Rockies fans are hoping for that as well … in addition to Hall of Fame voters seeing that Walker was more than just a Coors Field creation.