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Rox legend Walker talks HOF voting, memories

Owner Monfort on 25th anniversary; Colorado options Almonte, calls up Valaika
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Larry Walker looked trim and athletic -- in at least as good of shape as when he was patrolling right field for the Rockies in the 1990s and early 2000s. More importantly, his sense of humor was sharp as ever.

"I try and stay in some kind of shape so I don't have to keep buying new clothes -- I keep wearing my raggedy [stuff] from the last 20 years," Walker said.

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DENVER -- Larry Walker looked trim and athletic -- in at least as good of shape as when he was patrolling right field for the Rockies in the 1990s and early 2000s. More importantly, his sense of humor was sharp as ever.

"I try and stay in some kind of shape so I don't have to keep buying new clothes -- I keep wearing my raggedy [stuff] from the last 20 years," Walker said.

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On Saturday, the Rockies honored their All-Time 25-Man Team, as voted by more than 3,500 fans via Rockies.com. Players past and present posed with fans on a Photo Day before Saturday's game against the Marlins at Coors Field.

Video: MIA@COL: Rockies fans pack the field for Photo Day

Walker, who arrived as Coors Field opened in 1995 and remained until he was traded to the Cardinals in 2004, won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1997 and was one of the most decorated players in Rockies history. Already a star with the Montreal Expos, Walker decided he wanted to sign with the Rockies when he noticed the team pulling incredible crowds at Mile High Stadium, which seated in excess of 80,000. The fan support and the 1995 NL Wild Card team stand out for Walker.

"That's what jumped in my head as the first thing, pouring champagne on each other in '95," Walker said. "If a player tells you he's playing the game for a different reason, I'll fight him. That's the best feeling there is. Walk-offs, no-hitters, that's great, but that's individual."

Tweet from @Rockies: Rockies fans, this is YOUR #AllTime25 Team.#Rockies25th pic.twitter.com/hXjiVlkls3

Walker has been up and down in Hall of Fame voting over the years. While some argue that Coors Field's hitter friendliness is a reason to keep him out of the Hall, modern stat analysts have looked more kindly on his career. While Todd Helton, who spent his entire 17-season career with the club and is the only former Rox player with his jersey retired, is considered "Mr. Rockie," Walker may be the best shot for the club to be represented in Cooperstown.

Walker has come to terms with the argument.

"It's like people saying, 'Do you get tired of signing autographs or taking pictures?' It's part of the territory," he said. "You live with it, deal with it and accept it. I'll talk about it as best as I can as I stumble to somehow say the right answers.

"As I say in some interviews, I agree with a lot of things they're saying and I don't agree with a lot of things they're saying. I'm on both sides of the fence."

Video: COL@MIA: Walker on the Rockies, career in Colorado

Walker is living in his native British Columbia and coaching with the Canadian National Team. Jeff Francis, a former Rockies lefty who is an All-Time 25-Man Team member, is a pitching coach with the Canadian National Team.

Monfort appreciates history
Rockies owner and CEO Dick Monfort said being able to celebrate a quarter century is a good feeling for a franchise that's young in comparison to many. A new plaza across from Coors Field, which will begin development later this year, will also have a building to celebrate Rockies history.

"There is some great history," Monfort said. "Great plays, great moments -- maybe not as many moments as we wanted, but there are still a lot of great times here."

Monfort was happy to see Helton, who is living in Knoxville, Tenn. "He is fully engaged, and wants to get more engaged, which is really cool," Monfort said.

Street considered a return
Reliever Huston Street, another member of the Rockies' All-Time 25-Man Team, spent some of the happiest three seasons of his 13-season career with Colorado from 2009-11. He also earned All-Star Game invitations while pitching for current Rockies manager Bud Black with the Padres in '12 and '14.

After pitching for the Angels last season, Street called Rockies manager Bud Black to see if he could continue his career with the Rox, whom he felt could win this season. Black was honest, saying he might have to earn a spot. Street decided to retire after his right shoulder pain flared as soon as he attempted to throw.

"I picked up a ball in January, and I couldn't pick up groceries until February," Street said.

Tweet from @Rockies: After 3,500+ ballots were cast, this is the Colorado Rockies #AllTime25!#Rockies25 🏔 pic.twitter.com/7xCboqUAUE

Valaika returns
After solid starts the past two days by Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray, the Rockies were able to go back to an eight-man bullpen. They optioned righty Yency Almonte, who appeared in the last two games, and recalled right-handed-hitting infielder Pat Valaika from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

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