Mickey Walker, son of Salem-Keizer Volcanoes owners Jerry and Lisa Walker, is back working for the organization in a greater capacity than he did when he was younger (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
With his parents, Jerry and Lisa Walker, being the owners of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Mickey Walker basically lived at the ballpark for the first 17 years of his life.
Now, after graduating college and completing a successful pitching career at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash., the 21-year old is back in Keizer, working at the place where he spent the majority of his summers as a youngster.
Even though he doesn’t have an official job title, Walker’s past experience allows him to be a jack-of-all-trades for the organization.
“I’ve basically done every single job there is to do in the stadium over the course of my life, whether it’s helping in the concessions, or cleaning up trash, or working in the front office. I’m kind of doing a little bit of everything right now. Where there is help needed, I’m helping,” Walker said.
“With my dad being the owner, there was always the thought that I would be doing this one day and its finally to the part where I’m starting to do it.”
Although he didn’t have front office experience coming into this gig, it didn’t take Walker long to find his stride.
“Mickey’s been here since he was a baby. He knows what the philosophy is. The nice thing for me is that he’s a very progressive thinker,” said Volcanoes president of business operations Mitche Graf. “I like to think out of the box and try things that may have not been tried and Mickey is of that same vein. That is encouraging to me, because if I share an out-of-the-box idea, he’ll be on board. He’s light years ahead for his age.”
Walker’s father had very similar things to say on the impact that his son has already had on the day-to-day operations of the organization this summer.
“Mickey is really sharp and has a great business mind. He’s been described as having a 45-year old mind and business acumen in a 21-year old body. He’s also very personable. Very well liked by co-workers and fans. He was always described as a great teammate too, so I guess it’s to be expected that he’d excel working with a team of co-workers at the stadium,” Jerry said.
Walker was a standout pitcher for McNary High School, earning all-state honors in 2014 and 2015. He was also named the Greater Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2014.
At first, the transition to college-ball was natural. Walker was named the Greater Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Freshman of the Year in 2016 and was recognized as an honorable mention all-conference selection.
But Walker couldn’t find the same success in his sophomore and junior seasons, and as his ERA continued to rise, his number of appearances began to drop.
“I just kind of thought I was going to be able to groove into this. But when I got to my sophomore and junior year, I was dealing with things that I had never necessarily dealt with before. Sophomore year was the toughest year because it felt like there was no rhyme or reason for why I was doing poorly. I just couldn’t figure it out,” Walker said.
But after his junior season, Walker had some major changes in his life occur.
After getting engaged in the spring of 2018, Walker and his fiancé, Celia, welcomed their daughter, Jean, into the world. With finishing a degree, playing baseball, planning a wedding and raising a daughter, Walker had an incredible amount on his plate. But thanks to the support from Celia, whom he married in May of this year, Walker handled the changes with relative ease.
“It was really easy for me because my wife was an incredible support for us. She was able to handle so much more than I could have ever dreamed,” Walker said. “Saying it was easy might seem weird, but honestly it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife.”
Despite having knee surgery two months before the season, Walker went on to have the best year of his college career.
In 33.2 innings of work out of the bullpen, Walker had a 1.87 ERA with 58 strikeouts and just nine walks. His was a first team all-GNAC selection and also named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) All-Region first team.
Walker ended his career at St. Martin’s with 196 strikeouts, the most in program history.
“The biggest thing that I learned was that I just needed to appreciate just being out there on the field in my final year of college,” Walker said. “When I had a bad game, the emphasis was to make the most out of the games I had left.”
After an outstanding senior season, Walker was prepared to be picked up by a Major League organization in the 2019 Draft back in June. But after 40 rounds and 1,217 picks, his name never showed up on the board.
“I thought that there was a really good chance I was going to get drafted. My coaches even told me they thought it was going to be a done deal. Not getting drafted was very disappointing. I don’t want to say not getting drafted was a shock, because I didn’t think it was guaranteed, but I did think there was a really good chance,” Walker said.
However, the dream isn’t completely dead yet. Walker is still staying in shape and was even flown down to Phoenix, Ariz., by the Milwaukie Brewers last month to throw a bullpen session.
But even if he is never picked up by a professional club, Walker feels that he has left the game on good terms.
“With the year that I had, I can honestly say to myself that there is nothing more that I could have done. I don’t think I left anything on the table, so at least I feel that I did everything that I could have,” Walker said.
Even though he has worked numerous summers at Volcanoes Stadium, Walker feels that having a bigger role this season has helped him learn on the job more.
“I feel like learn more every day, because every game will present a different challenge and a different opportunity. But I think the thing that I have learned the most this summer is how to try to come together as one cohesive unit as a staff,” Walker said. “Everything has to be working perfectly in-sync for things to go off without a hitch. I think I realize that more now because I have my hand in a little bit of everything.”
Walker cares deeply about the game of baseball, but he also loves creating the best in-game atmosphere as possible, which makes him a great asset to the future of the organization.
“I’m very passionate about my job. I enjoy coming to work and brainstorming ways to improve the Volcanoes game-days into a true fan experience,” Walker said.
Graf added: “With (Walker’s) energy, his vision and the way he attacks problems very proactively, I believe he will be monumental to the future of this organization."
Matt Rawlings: [email protected]