Larry Walker grew up wanting to be a hockey player.He ended up playing baseball and playing it well. The British Columbia native was the National League MVP Award winner in 1997, as well as a five-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove Award winner and a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
He ended up playing baseball and playing it well. The British Columbia native was the National League MVP Award winner in 1997, as well as a five-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove Award winner and a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
Now in retirement, Walker admits the game still has a hold on him. Only this time, his participation is as a coach for Team Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, a squad managed by former big league catcher Ernie Whitt.
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The Canadian team opens play in Miami on March 9 against the Dominican Republic in Pool C, which also features the United States and Colombia.
Walker discoursed the World Baseball Classic and his retirement in this week’s Q&A:
News reporter: What’s the attraction of coaching in the World Baseball Classic?
Walker: It is a little bit of everything, I guess. It’s fun in the aspect that I don’t have to play. There are the pressures that I have never known before as a non-player. You are sitting there as a coach, and it is a different pressure that you put on yourself. It is more, Well, I hope that these guys can succeed, whereas when I played, it was like, I hope I can succeed. It’s just a different feeling as far as having the uniform on. It’s also fun having your country’s name slapped on the front of your chest. It’s a pretty cool honor, and I think all the players agree with that when they say why they want to play on it so bad. And that’s one of the reasons.
News reporter: How did you get involved with Team Canada?
Walker: When I retired, Greg Hamilton, who is the director of national baseball teams in Canada, reached out to me. There was always that interest in doing it, to see these young kids, and a lot of them I played against, the [Justin] Morneaus, [Joey] Vottos. And it’s more than the [World Baseball Classic]. We were over at [a] tournament in Taiwan. The qualifier for the World Cup was in Germany. There’s another [tournament] in Sweden and Italy. It’s not only fun being with these guys, but you get to travel around and hang out with them. It’s like being on the road with your team. And I miss those days, the social part of baseball. When you retire, your teammates are gone, so this is a pretty good chance every year or two to be able to do it again.
News reporter: Does it get you thinking about maybe coaching on a full-time basis?
Walker: I retired, and I was done. I am not the running back from the Seattle Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch, but I wasn’t big on interviews being seen, being heard, all that stuff. It just didn’t interest me, and I think you can see that since I’ve retired. I don’t say “yes to a lot of things. I really don’t do a lot of interviews. [Former agent] Jim Bronner reached out about the Hall of Fame, and how I should get involved and promote myself. I just said, “No, no, no,” to everything. That’s not me. I’m done. My time is up.
News reporter: It’s about national pride?
Walker: Sure. We go to tournaments, and there might be one player from four years earlier on some of those teams. They have so many new players because they have so many players to choose from. In Canada, we might have one new player on our roster. It is basically the same guys for us. You look at the World Baseball Classic. We have Peter Orr, who is retired, but he’s going to play for his country. Guys like Eric Gagne and Ryan Dumpster are coming out of retirement. It is nuts.
News reporter: So are you going to surprise everybody and play yourself?
Walker: No. I’m done. I am retired. There is no thought of playing.