If you follow The Brute Squad, you already know we love Christian Walker. If you do not, then let me explain something to you - we are his biggest fans. A little background into Christian Walker’s career offers a glimpse into what some would call, “Being stuck between a rock and a hard place.” Though in Christian Walker’s case, the rock was always an all-star caliber 1st baseman - Davis in Baltimore, Votto in Cincinnati, Freeman in Atlanta, or of course, Paul Goldschmidt in AZ. The hard place? Trying to find a way onto the 25-man roster with guys like that in front of you.
This season Christian Walker earned his place on the D-back’s squad. And he needed to step into an even bigger role when Lamb went on the IL very early in the season, meaning Walker took over at first as an everyday starter. With all this added playing time, Walker has shown he has what it takes to stick on a big league squad. I had always wanted to interview the D-backs 1st baseman, even before Goldy’s departure in the off-season. So when my chance came I pounced. What follows is our Q&A. which was done at Chase Field on Monday August 5th.
Walker: “Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, I grew up about an hour away from Philly.”
ed: So who was your favorite player growing up?
Walker: “I really like Scott Rolen, a lot. He was in Philly for a handful of years. Rollins, Utley, that core group of guys... I was a prime-time Phillies fan.”
ed: In your career, you have already hit 3 home runs off of Clayton Kershaw. What is your plan of attack when you face a guy like that?
Walker: “To be honest, it’s not too extravagant or anything like that. I know he likes to throw righties in, with his angle and where he releases from, there is some cut or pull when it’s coming into a rightie. I just try and think what makes him deceptive, try and stay on the ball and be ready for it. After the second one, it turned into a confidence game. where I could really just buy into my approach - being able to be all in on your plan.”
ed: You’ve hit two home runs off of Walker Buehler as well...
Walker: “Yeah, I have had a good little stretch off of them! To be honest I have played most of my games against the Dodgers. It’s just one of those funny baseball numbers that it’s working out that way so hopefully I can keep it going.”
ed: On July 27th vs Miami you were hit by a pitch twice. Did you think anything about that 2nd HBP was intentional?
Walker: “No, I didn’t think it was intentional but regardless...”
ed: You seemed pretty pissed off...
Walker: “Yeah it was 99 (mph) and the only reason it hit me in my arm and not my ribs is because I put my arm down. It could have been drastically different with 99 in the rib cage. It’s not that it’s on purpose or anything like that, and to be honest, as a hitter you don’t really care why it’s happening. If it’s on purpose it sucks. If it’s not on purpose it still sucks. So to be honest, you are just mad at the scenario. I was really frustrated, more that I just got hit with 99, not about a motive or anything like that. I was just frustrated and my team mates didn’t like the way (the pitcher) was staring me down.”
ed: Was that the first time in your career you have been hit by a pitch multiple times in a game?
Walker: “Yeah, I think so. I don’t get hit a lot for some reason!”
ed: I want to ask you about your time working with Buck Showalter so I would like to read you a quote from Buck. This was after Baltimore made the unfortunate decision to designate you: “I’ll talk to him, it’s tough, but it’s got a chance to work out well for him. Until we get to that point, i’m not going to start acting like he’s gone, because he is not yet.” To me it really sounds like Buck thought highly of you. How does that feel and what was it like working with Showalter?
Walker: “I learned a lot. I wish I had more time there to keep learning and developing as a young player. His preparation for the game and the way he approaches being prepared for game scenarios and situations, combined with his stress on how important defense is, it all comes together for a very unique managing style. You feel as a player that no matter what happens you can always count on Buck to have a plan or a way out. I learned a lot in terms of preparation and never being caught off-guard, and really understanding what it means to be prepared at this level.”
ed: You were the 2017 Pacific Coast League MVP, how does it feel knowing you were chosen by the other (16) managers in the PCL?
Walker: “It’s exciting, it means a lot to me. It’s one thing to earn the respect of my teams mates and the people in the club house, another to be able to earn the respect of people without having to sit down and have a conversation with them, to earn it on the field and through my play. Because that’s the only experience I have with another manager, is playing against him. For other managers to vote for me, means a lot, it’s motivating me to keep working hard and staying the course.”
ed: Is that something you’d like to see implemented in the big leagues, where the coaches (managers) vote for the MVP?
Walker: “One way or another, I think there may be a more effective way to get the players in. I think they are really, really close but I think it gets biased sometimes with the fans and the different fan-bases having more pull than others. Chicago will have more pull than Arizona.”
ed: Like the Cubs and the all star game, where every Cub is an All-Star.
Walker: “Yeah, and that’s something to put on your resume, that’s big. It’s important. A guy like Eduardo Escobar who had the numbers to do it - but you know he’s just not the big-time flashy guy that he is competing against. So to see a guy like that miss an opportunity to be in the All-Star game makes you wish there was a little bit of a cleaner way to do it. But I get it, you want to keep the fans involved. I get it.”
ed: You’ve played behind guys like Davis in Baltimore, briefly Votto in Cincinnati, briefly Freeman in Atlanta, obviously Goldy in AZ. In a sense, I will use the word that they were “blocking” you. Were you ever discouraged, and who was your biggest supporter during those times?
Walker: “Discouraged, yes - but in a sense like I feel like this is my chance, this is my opportunity to be playing in the big leagues and earning who I am, earning my worth with the team. Just the business side of it and the logistics of it weren’t allowing that. It’s not a scenario where it’s like ‘oh, I’m better than Paul Goldschmidt, I should be playing 1st base.’ It’s a scenario where I fully understand what is going on, Paul has earned every at bat, he plays 160 games a year. There is some frustration but it’s not really directed at anybody or anything. It’s just frustration with the scenario. It was a matter of keeping my head on straight, using it as motivation and getting better and learning from it.
To be honest, I can flip it and say I got the chance to learn from Davis, Freeman, Votto and Paul Goldschmidt. Not a lot of guys can say that they got a chance to play right next to those guys even if it’s just practice or Spring Training. Just to get reps next to them and see that kind of caliber player on a day to day basis, I really learned a lot.
My support staff through the whole thing? My family and my wife. They were the people that were seeing it first-hand as well as me. They grinded through it growing up. and my Mom taking me to travel ball and all of that. She’s right there with me, so for sure my family and my support staff was a huge part of that.”
ed: What are some of your off the field hobbies?
Walker: I go right to the off season when I think of off the field hobbies. Honestly it’s a whole bunch of things I didn’t get to do in season. I spend a lot of time at home, I am a homebody. Hang out with my dogs and my wife at the house. We bought a house a couple years ago so we are still learning the whole process. That takes up a huge chunk of our time: house maintenance, yard work. We live in South Carolina so the weather, we still have to maintain through the winter time. It’s been a process, and it’s been a lot of fun. So when I think of off season hobbies - lots of house stuff, for sure!
ed: Any superstitions?
Walker: Not so much superstitions, I put a great deal of importance on my routine and quality of life. I really like health and nutrition and a part of that for me is sleep and habits. For example, getting to bed a certain time, making sure I get my hours, getting up and getting a good breakfast. The routine of trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
ed: What’s your clubhouse nick name?
Walker: “C-Walk, Dyson calls me ‘Walk-afella’, pretty much anything that rhymes with or sounds anything like walk. It’s interesting having Taijuan in the clubhouse, it’s the first time I’ve played with another Walker so to hear him call me ‘Walk’, and then saying, ‘what up Walk?’ to him is kind of funny.
ed: Last question, for you what makes a good at bat?
Walker: “That’s a good question. I would say I want the pitcher to know that he did not get me out. If I get out, it’s because something I did. I want him to know that he did not dominate me - you know, just throw three pitches how he wanted. I want the feeling of, man that was a good at-bat and I just missed it. Or you saw ten pitches, nice job. It’s a blend of feeling like I am competing every pitch, but also getting back to the dugout and he knows I got out, not because of something he did. I want to feel like I got out on my own terms. It’s important for me to maintain positivity in stretches of 0-for. To still feel competitive on a pitch to pitch basis.”
Big thanks to the Arizona Diamondbacks communications team, Jack Sommers for setting this up, and Jim for the opportunity to do these things. Especially, massive thanks to Christian Walker for taking time to meet with me before a game and answer all of my questions. It was a pleasure to interview him.