The Colorado Rockies will be getting their first Hall of Famer inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next week in Cooperstown, N.Y., when former Rockies outfielder Larry Walker will be inducted as part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class on Wednesday.
Before Thursday’s series opener between the Atlanta Braves bench coach, former Colorado Rockies manager, and Walker’s former teammates Walt Weiss spoke with the media, including Rox Pile, and he reflected and reminisced on some of his favorite memories of playing with Walker.
Weiss said that Walker’s attitude was “part of what made him great.
“He could show up and loosen up the room immediately but I mean physically, I always tell people that he was the most complete player I ever played with,” said Weiss. “It’s tough for me to say that because there were so many good players I played with but all things considered, on both sides of the ball (offensively and defensively), on the bases, hit for power, hit for average, he was the best I played with.”
Atlanta Braves first base coach and former Colorado Rockies player Eric Young agreed with Walt Weiss on Larry Walker.
In an exclusive conversation with Rox Pile on Friday, Atlanta Braves first base coach and Walker’s former teammate Eric Young agreed with Weiss on Walker being the best, or among the best, that he played with.
Young, who spent six weeks with the San Francisco Giants in 2003, said that Barry Bonds and Larry Walker were the two best players he played with.
“It’s two guys that I played with that were the best and the smartest: That’s Barry Bonds and Larry Walker,” Young said to Rox Pile.
"“(Walker) could do whatever he wanted on the field but, more importantly, he was just the smartest (player) out there,” Young quipped. “He knew how to play the fences, he knew the talent of the (opposing) runners, he just knew everything. The turns and the twists on the field … Mentally as a hitter, he would take his hits the other way, and then, all of a sudden, (pitchers would) think that they can get a fastball (by him) and he would pull it. He just had the ability to do whatever he wanted on a baseball field and Barry Bonds was the only (other player who could do that).”"
Walt Weiss compared Walker to former Atlanta Braves pitcher and Hall of Famer Greg Maddux because Weiss believes that Walker “could see the game at a different level” than their competition. “(Walker) just saw things at a different level than everybody else,” said Weiss.
Walker, Weiss, and Young were all on the 1995 Rockies team, which was the first and only Rockies team to make it to the playoffs until they reached the World Series in 2007. Young said that he thinks that Walker was a huge part of why they made the playoffs, in part because of how he kept things light in the clubhouse and how he made other players play better.
“I remember how much fun it was to play with him and how great he was,” Young said. “(In 1995), I remember Larry challenged us (on the field), which enabled us to get into the playoffs … I had to make sure my game was keen and be more involved at second base (in front of Walker in right field) and, of course, I wanted to be on base for him so he could knock me in.”
Walker, 54, was inducted with 76.6 percent of the vote on his 10th and final ballot for the Hall of Fame. He also had one of the largest jumps ever seen for any player as, in 2014, Walker garnered only 10.2 percent of the vote.
Weiss was one of Walker’s biggest supporters throughout the entire process. He explained how he extensively researched Walker’s career to see his numbers, particularly in analytics.”
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"“I campaigned hard for him and I was happy to,” Weiss said. “I researched his career a lot and the numbers will blow you away. You start putting his numbers up against some of the greatest in history and it’s amazing. The ‘Coors Field’ thing is always going to work against you but I think 31 percent of his at-bats were at Coors Field. People just think that his whole career was at Coors Field and (it wasn’t) … His road numbers stacked up against Hall of Famers so when you really start to dig in, I felt it was a clear cut case.”"
Young said that he thought that Walker was underestimated as a player but when you look at the analytics and some other stats, he was a Hall of Famer.
“We all underestimated how good he was,” Young said. “I think we all said he was a good player, the writers said he was a good player but Larry was a great player … We had studs on the teams (in Colorado) but Larry was the one who stood above all those great players we had.”
Cooperstown has often been described as a quaint, small town that is a great look into the landscape of America 100 years ago. However, it wasn’t the eye test of 100 years ago that is why Walker will be making a speech there next week but it will be the new era of evaluation of baseball players that got Walker in. And, for that, Rockies fans will be forever grateful.