Walker goes way back with NFL superstar

June 9th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry's Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If you were out on DFW-area travel ball fields around 2010, you would see two energetic and confident boys roaming the outfield for the Dallas Mustangs, a premier team in the area. They would go on to play against each other in high school -- one at Allen and the other at Prosper -- and would eventually become teammates again as star outfielders for the Oklahoma Sooners from 2017-18.

One boy, everybody already knows: Kyler Murray, the Heisman-winning, free-running No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick who chose the Arizona Cardinals and football over the Oakland A’s after being selected in MLB's first round too.

The other one of those boys you’ll know soon enough, and he’s got a name to remember. Steele Walker, Texas Rangers, was called up on Saturday. The two have known each other since junior high, and both are professional athletes after a winding road that brought them from the Dallas Mustangs to the Oklahoma Sooners and then diverged.

Murray is still the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, while Walker worked his way through the White Sox and Rangers’ farm systems before finally making his MLB debut this week.

They still keep in touch, and Murray sent a supportive tweet and text to Walker after his callup was announced.

“He just said [in the text] that he’s super proud of me,” Walker said. “It's a big accomplishment to make it this far. He's a guy who knows how sports are and how hard they can be. To make it all the way up those levels, it takes time. It just takes grit, and he's followed me as I followed him in his career. It was nice to receive that text from him, from a person who understands and gets it and is still showing support.”

However confident Walker was on those travel ball fields back in junior high with Murray, it’s only multiplied since then. He brings a new level of swagger and attitude -- in the best way possible -- to the Rangers clubhouse that likely hasn’t been seen this year.

Walker’s gotten Joc Pederson comparisons for years, but insists he doesn’t have the same level of flamboyance that the Giants outfielder shows.

And for what it’s worth, maybe he has a point.

For all his swag and confidence, Walker possesses a quiet type of security in himself both on and off the field. No matter how showy the bat flips and chains -- one gold, one silver and one black diamond -- and struts around the bases may seem, Walker has a humbleness about him that few in his position really show.

“This game inflicts so much fear into a player,” Walker said. “You don't know how it's gonna go. There's so many unknowns, right? And that's life. Baseball is just a reflection of life. For me, the key is if this all goes south, what's left? If this all is gone -- the big stage, the success on the field, what's left? I have a foundation in Christ, I have a foundation in the people that I love. That's the key to confidence, is knowing that if this all is gone, I'm fine. Now we can be confident. It's hard to muster up confidence when you're genuinely scared.”

In Walker’s mind, he’s still just playing a game, though he recognizes the bigger stadiums and skyscrapers surrounding the ballparks in Cleveland and Chicago are pretty different from the ones in Amarillo and Round Rock.

He expressed that same sentiment after hitting his first Major League home run in the Rangers’ loss to the Guardians on Tuesday.

“You've done something so many times, and you've had so much success and failure in the past, but now you do it, and there’s just more people watching,” he said. “The cameras are nicer, and the stadiums are huge, right? But it's still like, ‘Okay, yeah, I've done that before.’ It's funny because before you know it, you're back in the box, and you’ve got to try to get a hit again. This game, it doesn't let up. I'm old enough to know that you need to enjoy these moments and take it in and be thankful for it.”