“He was the first person here that told me, ‘Don’t overthink it when it comes to baseball and don’t put too much pressure on yourself,’” Walker told MLB.com. “It was pretty basic stuff, really, but it meant a lot coming from him.
“To hear someone like Ozzie telling you to keep things as simple as you can, it really resonated with me. [Simplifying things] is the best way to stay focused, so you take that advice and you run with it. It just means something a little different when it’s coming from a legend like Ozzie.”
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Walker has made Major League Baseball look somewhat simplistic, so far, with the way he has handled the transition from Double-A.
On Sunday, he ripped a 108.3 mph line drive into center to push his personal hitting streak to nine games. Doing that in his first nine games as a big leaguer at his age had only been done previously by Eddie Murphy (1912) and an all-time MLB great, Hall of Famer Ted Williams (1939).
The Cardinals limped out of Milwaukee at 3-6, but their precocious, blossoming star is standing tall to the tune of a .353 batting average, two home runs, eight RBIs and zero hitless games.
Being the youngest player on a team -- or even the youngest player at the MLB level, as Walker is this season -- has never been a problem for the Georgia native.
With Jordan’s brother, Derek Jr., being two years older, Derek and Katrina Walker often had their sons playing baseball at the same level -- even if it meant Jordan was the youngest player in the league. Jordan often did the same thing on the Travel Ball circuit, and now he said age is a total nonfactor to him.
“I was typically the youngest player on every team I was on, and I thought it was a good challenge,” said Walker, who is still 6 ½ weeks shy of his 21st birthday. “Going to travel ball is when I started to really see the [age gap] but looking back, I’m glad I did it. Getting better competition early on helped me a little sooner. I never thought too much about [being the youngest player] or ever made too much out of it.”
Walker did make a big deal about dining with Smith. Even though Ozzie was done doing somersaults in 1996 -- six years before Walker was born -- the young outfielder was very familiar with Smith’s acrobatics long before the dinner. That’s another reason why he was so eager to try to absorb Smith’s knowledge.
“I knew they called him ‘The Wizard’ for a reason,” said Walker, who has watched numerous YouTube highlight compilations of Smith. “Ozzie was just different with the backflips and the great plays. And he was so helpful to me.”