Love for the game keeps Gopher shortstop happy

SOECharlesHallmansquareThere are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2014-15 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.

 

 

This week: Gopher senior softball player Tyler Walker

Tyler Walker signing autographs
Tyler Walker signing autographs

If there’s a momentary silence during Tyler Walker’s at-bats, it might be intentional. “I swear that the crowd gets quiet just so she can scream, because I always hear her at every at-bat,” joked Walker of her mother Deedy Walker. “She’s a handful.”

Deedy Walker
Deedy Walker

If this is true, Tyler’s mom didn’t disclose it during an MSR interview after a recent home game. “I’m pretty fortunate. I travel to all of her games,” said the proud mom.

Mind you, the native Californian isn’t complaining: “It’s like a piece of home, so it’s nice,” admitted Deedy’s daughter on knowing that her mother is watching her play. “It’s a good feeling.”

Walker was a key piece in Coach Jessica Allister’s first recruiting class four years ago. As a result, the San Jose native did a reverse Jed Clampett packed-up move and headed eastward to Minnesota. “Her goal was to start and be a part of something new,” said Deedy. “I don’t think she could’ve asked for anything else.”

However, what about her — how did she handle her daughter being so far away from home for college?

“It was difficult being so far away,” responded Deedy. “But it’s easier putting your head on the pillow at night knowing that she’s got a good support system. The coaches have been outstanding. The parents have been totally outstanding. And her teammates — I feel like I have 24 daughters on the team.”

But Daughter No. 1 always gets her full attention because of seniority. “I see the love that she has for the game and that she has for her teammates and the University of Minnesota,” observed Deedy of Tyler.

Walker as usual is among the team leaders in most statistical categories, including the Gophers’ co-leader in home runs, but the shortstop couldn’t help but offer a self-critique of her play thus far this season. “Absolutely there always are things I would like to do better,” she admitted. “I am very proud of myself in the sense that I didn’t have a great start to the season.”

When asked how she handled the slow start, Tyler said, “My key was not trying so hard. I was getting in too much trouble, and I wanted to get out of the slump I was in. I was trying and trying, but once I relaxed it started working for me.”

But it’s all about winning, not stats for Walker — she didn’t have a great game in a recent 11-0 no-hit victory over Northwestern. “It was fun playing behind her,” said the shortstop of Gopher pitcher Sara Groenewegen’s 12 strikeouts. “I would have liked a few more ground balls here and there, but we can’t be selfish and [not] take the strikeout[s].”

The normal ritual in baseball is not to talk about a possible no-hitter while the game is in progress. Is this the same in softball? “To be honest, I had no idea there was a no-hitter until we sat down to sign autographs [afterwards]. I just go on the field. If they tell me it’s a no-hitter, then cool. I just try not to think about it. Then I won’t get as nervous,” reported Walker. As long as I can get on base [as leadoff hitter], I’m doing my job.”

Win or lose, “Tyler has a love for the game,” concluded Deedy Walker. “It’s been a wonderful experience just seeing my daughter happy.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

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