Former Decatur High player in MLB shares his story, offers advice for young playersJordan Walker. Image provided to Decaturish.
By David McFarland, contributor
Decatur, GA — A former Decatur High School is living his baseball dreams.
Bulldog graduate and varsity baseball player Jordan Walker made his debut for the St. Louis Cardinals in their Opening Day clash with the Blue Jays back on March 30. Although the Cardinals lost 10-9, Walker made his MLB dream come true and went on to register his first MLB hit-and-run batted-in (when a batter makes a play that leads to a run being scored).
Walker’s debut was a monumental moment for him and his family.
“It was unreal, man,” Walker said. “A lot of emotions, all of them positive, a little nervous of course, but I never felt anything like it in my life, and it’s just a moment I can probably never forget.”
For Walker, one of the many special aspects of his debut was, “The amount of people that came out on opening day. I really enjoyed that all of my family and friends made time to see me.”
His high school coach, Coach Robby Gilbert, was one of those in the stands for Walker’s MLB debut and hailed it as a “surreal” moment.
“Sitting in Busch Stadium this year for Opening Day with my son and daughter and seeing Jordan make his MLB Debut was such a special moment for me and to be able to enjoy that with his family and closest friends was very special,” Gilbert said. “I have been so fortunate in my lifetime to have coached some tremendous young men.”
Since then, Walker has since gone on to register 51 games played in MLB, with 8 home runs, 20 total runs, 25 runs batted in, and 52 hits, generally playing right field for the Cardinals. He’s also struck a home run against the Braves and made a hit in 12 straight games, tying Eddie Murphy’s record for the longest hitting streak for a rookie under 21 – a record that has stood since 1912.
“Knowing the people that I used to watch on TV, all the big league players that I watched on TV growing up, and then getting the chance to beat them on the field is probably my favorite part” of being in the big leagues,” Walker said.
He said Cardinals’ third baseman Nolan Arenado’s 300th home run as a “pretty cool” moment to witness up close.
The 21-year-old has faced plenty of obstacles as wel. He said one of the biggest challenges of making the jump to MLB is, “overcoming and adjusting to what they’re doing up there and adjusting to how fast the game is up there.”
“The pitching’s tough,” Walker said. “Obviously, those guys are really good, so they know exactly how to get you out, things like that, they know what your weaknesses are. The speed of the game and then also the talent, those guys perfect their craft.”
Walker spent several seasons in the minor leagues to experience the professional level from the ground up.
He described his time there as equally important to his development as it was bumpy.
“It was tough,” Walker said. “A lot of long bus rides, sometimes not [great] playing conditions, like you’re in the middle of nowhere playing. It really gave you a drive that if baseball’s what you want to do, you need to get to the big leagues. But it’s also cool because you meet a lot of guys from different organizations as well, so when you get called up, and then they get called up you get to see them succeed in the big leagues as well. You make a lot of friends and relationships.”
Before his minor league journey, Walker spent all four years of high school playing at DHS, and it was clear he was a star in the making from day one.
Decatur left a mark on Walker.
“A lot of my relationships that I have in the baseball world were actually started at Decatur,” Walker said. “ … The kids that I grew up playing with, we’d all play on that team at Decatur. It was more of a familiar aspect, it felt more like a family. It made me enjoy the game of baseball a little bit more.”
Coach Gilbert, the Decatur coach for all four of those seasons, was full of praise for his old pupil.
“Jordan was a very hard worker in everything that he did,” Gilbert said. “He never took a day off from the weight room or during the off season. He wanted to be great and knew what it was going to take to get there.”
That work ethic and mental strength made Walker stand out. By the time his junior year arrived, Coach Gilbert knew, “He could really be something special down the road. He also has such a calm demeanor about him where he never gets too high and never gets down on himself in the game of baseball. If he goes 4-4 or 0-4, he really keeps the same calmness about himself that I truly think has been a huge factor in him getting to the Major Leagues as quickly as he did.”
Walker recalled his time playing for Gilbert.
“He was the coach who always looked out for me whether it was in school or on the baseball field,” Walker said. “He would always take care of us, when it came to the baseball field, he was always dedicated to helping us with our craft, always dedicated to helping us win. He cared, and I think that’s what a coach really needs to do, care about his team.”
Walker’s junior year in particular was one for the record books. He was recognized as the 2019 Region 6-5A Offensive Player of the Year, named the DeKalb County Player of the Year, and awarded Player of the Game at the 2019 MLB High School All-Star Game. His stats featured 17 home runs, 60 runs batted in, 43 runs scored, 24 stolen bases, and a batting percentage of .519.
In that same season, Decatur boasted a 30W-8L overall record and a 100% winning record in region play.
Coach Gilbert recounted how Decatur was a, “very tight-knit group of kids in 2019 and 2020 (Jordan’s Sr year).”
While Walker was of course a crucial part of Decatur’s on-field success, he had just as big a part to play in that connectedness that made Decatur stand out. Coach Gilbert describes how Walker, “was his teammates’ biggest fan when they were also playing the game. He wanted each and every one of them to be just as successful at the end of the day.”
Unfortunately, neither Walker nor the team would get a chance to build off that success, as the COVID-pandemic put an end to the 2020 season.
Despite that setback, Walker’s superb play caught the eye of countless scouts and, in particular, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The MLB picked Walker 21st in the 2020 draft and though he was also committed to Duke University, Walker decided to go pro, signing with the Cardinals in June of that year.
Three years later, Walker is now established in the MLB and aiming for the sky.
“I definitely want to win a World Series, but my overall goal is I want to be in the hall of fame, so that’s what I’m working towards,” Walker said.
His advice for current Decatur baseball players?
“Take it slow,” Walker said. “A lot of the young kids I see try to rush and get scouted by colleges, but I really want them to slow the game down and have fun with it because that’s when your best self comes out when you’re actually enjoying the game. I think that they can become the most successful players when they actually have fun and enjoy the game and not worry too much about the future.”
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