St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on June 12, 1989 · Page 118
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 118

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St. Louis, Missouri
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Monday, June 12, 1989
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Page 118
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ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH ; (etoMETRO sports 4S SOUTH '"' "MONDAY, JUNE 12, 1989 " , ' BASEBALL Oakville's Walker Shook Junior Jinx College, Pro I TTW7' uareers Eyed By .385 Hitter By Mike Eisenbath Post-Dispatch Suburban Sports Editor Jim Walker must have been shaking his head throughout the 1988 high school baseball season. The ; Oakville first baseman was deter- y mined to avoid that frustration this ' year. Walker, who graduated from Oakville on Friday, had never suffered through an offensive slump in his life. That includes about 13 base-ball seasons. His swing always was there. The hits always came. As a sophomore at Oakville, he was named to the All-Suburban South Conference first team and received All-Metro honorable mention. He was a baseball prodigy. He was on his way to high school greatness, a rookie clubbing the ball with the best of the veterans. Then came his junior year. And a sub-.200 batting average. "I was hitting the ball," he recalled. "But it was right at people. It ' wasn't a strikeout slump. And as soon as the high school season was over last year, I broke out of it. I hit . .390 and was one of the best RBI guys on our Johnny Mac team in the Connie Mack league. "But I was really hoping for a lot of good things last year in high school, and it was going so bad that - it kind of got to me a little bit." ' Walker is an easy-going sort who said he wants to be remembered by . his Oakville classmates as much for being a good friend as for being a h good baseball player. , But he didn't want to be remembered as a baseball player who never fulfilled his promise. . "In the offseason this year, Scott Bles and I hit in the batting cage every day," Walker said. "I wanted to make sure that what happened last year didn't happen again. We'd go every day and hit, sometimes , even at 6 in the morning, before school started." It worked. Walker hit .385, belted three home runs and drove in 29 'Tuns. He was a big reason Oakville . finished as the Missouri Class 4A runner-up, losing 10-3 to Jefferson " City in the championship game June 3 in Columbia. Walker also will con-:'tinue to be a big part of Johnny Mac's summer squad. Last year, he was battling to redeem himself with Johnny Mac. This year, he can enter summer play with a renewed sense of confi- j , . : -1-:,'- 'f .'' t. .... i 1 Jim Walker, a recent graduate of Oakville, felt comfortable with a bat again this season. dence. He regained his All-Suburban South Conference first-team recognition and should fare well in All-Metro balloting. What's more, he achieved that intangible goal: respect as a hitter. Case in point. Oakville and Parkway South, one of the state's top teams, are tied 3-3 and Walker comes to the plate with the bases loaded. "South's pitcher would pitch to me," said Walker, relishing the memory. "I mean, he didn't walk me intentionally, but he wouldn't throw me a good pitch. He threw three balls, then I took one pitch down the middle when he knew I'd be taking. "Then he tried to throw one just out of the strike zone, but it caught the edge of the plate and I hit a three-run double." Oakville went on to win the game 11-3. Walker was three for four, with four RBIs, in the game. "And I was pounding home runs just foul all day," he said." As cold as Walker was at the plate as a junior, that Is how hot he was the final month or so of his senior season. He drove in 12 runs his last five games. "It was the kind of thing that when you get up in the morning, you just want to play and win every day," he said. "After we beat Lafayette in the playoffs, I thpught we could beat anybody. I could just feel the confidence on our team, and in myself, too. We were so high and up, it was like we didn't think we could lose. "I can look back now, now that I've had time to get over losing to Jeff City, and say we had a great year. I wanted to be state champs, but we really were lucky to get that far." Walker and his Oakville teammates can realize that now. And early in the season, the Tigers didn't hold much optimism for being able to reach the 4A final four. They didn't seem to have enough pitching, and their offense wasn't quite potent enough. Winning turned that thought around. "We were lucky at the end," Walker said, "but that wasn't the attitude we took into the tournament. We said we could win the whole thing. "I think Scott and I were like the leaders of the team. And when we picked it up, the whole team picked it up." It is a wonderful memory for Walker, of how he and his teammates turned it around. But that's all it is now a memory. Sam LeonePost-Dispatch He has a new set of goals. They include getting a degree in business and becoming a real estate agent some day, just like both of his parents. They also include continuing his baseball improvement at a junior college and then a four-year university. He plans to play at Meramec Community College, despite new recruiting pleas from programs such as Forest Park Community College and Jefferson College. "I want to go to Meramec, because their program is always so good," Walker said. "And then I want to go to a pretty good major-college program. And if I get drafted some day, well, I'm not planning on it but it would be pretty nice." If he works in the future as hard as he did this season to avoid that "junior jinx," Walker could find many nice results ahead. Kimberlin Excited By Draft Call By Cathie Burnes Beebe Of the Post-Dispatch Staff At approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday, Keith Kimberlin's life changed at least for the immediate future. The telephone rang in the Kimberlin house in south St. Louis County. After Keith picked up the phone, the voice on the other end of the line said: "I'm with the Detroit Tigers and we drafted you on the 20th round." Major-league baseball had conducted its annual free-agent draft Monday and Kimberlin had received some indication that he would be selected. Still, when the phone call came, the butterflies returned to Kimberlin's stomach. "After he told me that I had been drafted, I was so nervous I had a hard time remembering what he said next," Kimberlin said. By Friday, Kimberlin had calmed down sufficiently and signed a contract with the Tigers organization. He left quickly to report to the Tigers' Class A team in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in the N,ew York-Pennsylvania League. Kimberlin said he had no doubts about signing. "As soon as he called, I made up my mind," Kimberlin said. "There were no second thoughts." Baseball has been a part of Kimberlin's life since "I was 5 or 6," but he was a player without a permanent position throughout his little league life. "I was a pitcher and caught and played wherever," Kimberlin said. But when he came out for the Affton High baseball team in 1982, coach Art Hill moved him to shortstop. Kimberlin has been a fixture there ever since. "I didn't really have a player who I tried to emulate until Ozzie Smith came here in 1982," Kimberlin said. "Obviously I can't do the things he does, but you can pick up so many things particularly defensively just by watching him." And Kimberlin takes the defensive aspect of shortstop very seriously. "Playing shortstop to me has always meant fielding the ball well," Kimberlin said. "I put the bat on the ball, but I consider myself an all-glove, no-hit player." He may be selling his talents short Kimberlin was a good enough all-round player at Affton to catch the attention of Southeast Missouri State, where he played two varsity seasons before transferring to Missouri Baptist. He caught the attention of major-league scouts his first year at Missouri Baptist, where he quickly won a starting position. 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