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Walker 'thankful' to be playing pro ball

White Sox second-round Draft pick adjusting to post-college life
August 28, 2018

NEW YORK -- In Steele Walker's past three games for Class A Kannapolis, the left-handed-hitting outfielder has four hits, two home runs and eight RBIs.But here's the strange fact related to this South Atlantic League outburst: the numbers ultimately don't matter to the charismatic 22-year-old.Of course, these statistics someday will

NEW YORK -- In Steele Walker's past three games for Class A Kannapolis, the left-handed-hitting outfielder has four hits, two home runs and eight RBIs.
But here's the strange fact related to this South Atlantic League outburst: the numbers ultimately don't matter to the charismatic 22-year-old.
Of course, these statistics someday will help define what sort of player Walker has become. As a second-round selection in the 2018 Draft out of the University of Oklahoma, that time presently has been superseded by Walker simply getting adjusted to life as a professional.
"I know results are everything in this game, but for me right now, they don't mean anything, to be completely real," said Walker during a recent phone interview. "I'm trying to get comfortable again, playing the game every day again.
"That's my main focus. I don't need to try to hit 10 [homers] in these few games I have. It's just getting back into the swing, go to instructs and learn what I can and try to continue to get better and go in and have a healthy offseason."
Getting healthy became part of the first-year adjustment for Walker, who entered the organization with a right oblique strain. The injury took place after Oklahoma's last game of the regular season, so Walker missed the Big 12 Tournament and the week of the regional.
Even after Walker signed and came to Arizona, the oblique still needed time to heal.
"So, it ended up being over a month of really no baseball," Walker said. "We are kind of still getting back into it."
Many pundits, along with White Sox front office members, believe the team picked up first-round talent with the 46th overall pick, a player entering with a true pure hit tool. Walker counts himself as one of those believers.
"It was a little surprising to fall where I did. But on the bright side, I'm thankful to be valued by them in that way," Walker said. "I agree with them. I feel the same way they do.
"That's how I saw myself. I couldn't be more pleased ending up with the White Sox. They respect my game and appreciate me for the player that I am. What more can you ask?"
Walker has a combined .224 average to go with five homers, six doubles and six stolen bases over '18 stops with the Arizona Rookie League squad, Rookie-level Great Falls and Kannapolis. There will be time for closer number-watching as the outfielder's career develops, but life is more about learning the professional way.
Walker's life with the White Sox is different from his collegiate time. In fact, in some ways, he finds it easier.
"You see the College World Series and you think, 'It's so cool,' and it is. It definitely is. But you are going from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in college if you don't have a game. That's just a practice day," Walker said. "In pro ball, you play every day, but wouldn't you rather play every day than practice? 100 percent.
"Once you get to the field, you are working. It's awesome. It's a job I'm thankful to be able to pursue. I've loved it. It's refreshing to be able to play baseball and just play the game. You show up to the park, you know you are going to play and enjoy the atmosphere that pro ball has.
"We can just focus on the ball. I don't have to stay up and write a paper," Walker said. "You are expected more to perform here. But in college, your plate is so full. It's tough, man. Obviously, it matures you and it grows you. You can't get those years anywhere else. I'm very thankful."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.