MLB Baseball: Larry Walker
As far as Canadian baseball players go, there’s Ferguson Jenkins and there’s Larry Walker. No other players have entered the discussion about the greatest ballplayer ever to hail from the Great White North.
Northwesterners above and below the border would probably vote for Walker, the pride of Maple Ridge, British Columbia. At worst, he’s the best Canadian hitter of all time.
During his early athletic years, Walker fit the Canadian stereotype; he wanted to be a hockey player. He dreamed of being a pro goaltender and played baseball for fun just to fill his summers. To his surprise, he was a natural. He was invited to play for Team Canada at the 1984 World Youth Championships in Saskatchewan.
While there, he impressed Montreal Expos scouting director Jim Fanning, who signed him for $1,500.
Walker overcame his inexperience and a serious knee injury to reach the big leagues in 1989. He was there to stay. Walker became a true five-tool player, hitting for average, driving in runs, stealing bases, flashing a strong arm and playing a strong right field.
He played productive baseball for the Montreal Expos until the strike ended the 1994 season. After that, Walker signed with the Colorado Rockies and began an unbelievable stretch of offensive production.
There was no bigger season for the Canadian slugger than the 1997 campaign, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest single-season performances ever by a baseball player.
Walker batted .366 with 49 homers, 130 RBI, 33 stolen bases and the most total bases by a player (409) in 49 seasons. He also had 12 outfield assists. He became the first Canadian player ever to win the National League MVP or any MVP award.
Walker never won that elusive World Series but finished his outstanding career as a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glover.
Cooperstown may not give him the call but he may go down as one of the greatest hitters never to make it there.