A top-ten player in Slippery Rock history in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, junior catcher Tyler Walters is beginning to cement his legacy as one of the best hitters in SRU history. Through two and a half seasons at The Rock, Walters has amassed a .392 batting average, 158 hits, 41 doubles, 30 home runs and 110 runs batted in.
Even the best players go through struggles, however, and Walters is no exception. In Slippery Rock’s first seven games this year, Walters went 2-23, a .087 batting average, with one run driven in. The team was 3-4 over that stretch.
Walters described it as “the worst slump of my life.”
“I had friends, past coaches, everybody calling and texting me asking what was going on,” Walters said. “It was just on of those blunders. It seems like athletes hit it all the time and that was just my time. It’s made me realize, to overcome, that just shows how good you really can be.”
In 14 games since then, Walters has gone 23 for 50 (.460 batting average) with five home runs and 28 runs batted in. The Rock is 12-2 since he’s turned it around.
Rock head coach Jeff Messer said that he knew Walters would come out of his slide and return to form.
“It was just a matter of time,” Messer said. “He was just trying to do too much. He was pressing a bit to where he settled down and started to look at a few more pitches. He the best, or one of the best, hitters in the conference.”
Walters’s best performance of the year came last weekend in an away doubleheader against the University of Pitt-Johnstown. In the two seven-inning games, Walters went 8-9 with two home runs, 11 runs batted in and seven runs scored.
The first home run in the doubleheader had Walters pass all-time Slippery Rock great Matt Adams in career home runs. Adams, now playing first base in the MLB for the St. Louis Cardinals, hit 27 home runs in his three years at The Rock. After the series with Pitt-Johnstown, Walters has now hit 30.
Despite still being 10 home runs away from tying the all-time record, 40 set by Nate Thimons, Walters said that just passing Adams was a great achievement.
“It just puts into consideration that everything I’ve done building up to it has come to surpass somebody who has done so much for this program. He put Slippery Rock on the map,” Walters said. “It’s awesome, but it’s nothing crazy. I’d like be able to look back and say I have the record but everybody just wants to win, right now that’s the biggest thing.”
Messer said that it’s a special thing for anyone to have their name mentioned with someone like Matt Adams.
“When you start comparing hitters to a Matt Adams, you know you’re in the elite group of hitters, and Tyler would be,” Messer said. “He’d be in the top five guys we’ve had as hitters here. Anytime anybody in the conference’s name is mentioned with Matt Adams, it’s something special just because he’s in the major leagues.”
Walters said now, instead of receiving texts asking him what is wrong, he’s getting welcome back texts.
“At the end (of the UPJ series) I had a bunch of texts saying ‘glad to have you back’, ‘nice to see you had a good day.’ It just felt good to do what I know I can do all the time,” Walters said.
In baseball, as in life, few things are certain, and only time will tell what kind of legacy Walters will leave behind him at The Rock and what kind of future he can carve out for himself in baseball.
“(Playing professionally) is what everybody’s goal is coming into college, even when you’re 11, 12 years old, that’s what you dream of,” Walters said. “That’s what me and all my teammates have been working at every day. You come in and want to win but you also want to develop yourself into a next-level player. It’s in the back of your head and you think about it, but I just want to bring a championship to Slippery Rock, hopefully.”