Maple Ridge’s Larry Walker Jr. will be the second Canadian to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
The right fielder, who played with the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinal over the course of an illustrious career, will join Chatham, Ontario’s Fergie Jenkins as a member of the exclusive club.
This was the 10th and final year of Walker Jr.’s eligibility to be voted in by the Baseball Writer’s Association.
Needing 75 percent of the vote, he received just 54.6 per cent of the vote last year and 34.1 per cent in 2018.
Momentum continued to build and Walker Jr. received 76.6 percent of the 2020 vote to narrowly slide into home.
Just this morning, he tweeted to his followers that he was not expecting to be inducted this afternoon.
“I didn’t think it was happening and I truly meant that,” Walker Jr. said in an interview on MLB Network, “I had the numbers in my head and was prepared for no call and then the opposite happens and that call comes and all of a sudden you can’t breathe… when the phone rang and I saw that number, the heart skips a beat.”
Despite having an impressive career that included five all-star game appearances, seven Golden Gloves, three batting titles and a National League MVP award in 1997, Walker Jr.’s injury history and his home field in Denver, where he spent 10 of his 17 seasons, was seen to be held against him by voters in past years.
Coors Field, with its high elevation and roomy outfield, is lauded as a hitters paradise. Without question, it has helped many a Rockies batter pad their statistics. According to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors, 1,266 home runs were hit at Denver stadium in 2019. That is over 200 more than the next highest park.
But a telling stat that his risen Walker Jr.’s stock is his WAR or wins-over-replacement. The stat is used to determine the additional amount of wins a player’s team has accumulated above the expected number of victories if they were substituted with a replacement-level player.
For Walker Jr., his career WAR of 68.7 on Fangraphs ranks him as 86th of all time.
His father, Larry Walker Sr. was delighted with the news.
“I’m very, very excited,” he said in an interview with Maple Ridge News shortly after the announcement, “I’m speechless and I’ve got butterflies.
“I’ve got tears in my eyes,” he continued, “And I’m very happy. Very happy for him as well as our whole family and the people of Canada.”
Walker Sr. said the B.C.-born slugger has always represented Canada well.
“Larry’s always kept his Canadian citizenship,” he said, “He’s very proud to be Canadian and he was excited to be given the opportunity for this honour.
“He still coaches the national team and he’s happy to be involved.”
The proud dad thinks the world of what his son’s accomplished.
“He’s had 17 years of major league experience. He’s been an all star. He’s been the most valuable player in the league. He’s been on the ballot of ten years and a lot of people don’t even get on it,”Walker Sr. said, “We’re pretty happy with that and this is just a feather in the cap.”
Fans of Walker Jr.’s are just as impressed by his wardrobe choice as his induction.
— MLB (@MLB) January 21, 2020
Although a park in Maple Ridge is already named after Walker Jr. a small push is materializing to get a statue too.
Build this man a statue in Maple Ridge, BC, possibly in this shirt https://t.co/n52RjAPIHv
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) January 21, 2020