Greg Walker may not be a familiar name to many of you in Braves Country, but he should be. After the one-year disaster that was Larry Parrish at hitting coach, Walker has taken over the duties in Atlanta after a long tenure with the Chicago White Sox.
Frank Wren made it known from the very beginning that whichever candidate presented the best approach to fixing Jason Heyward's swing would likely get the job, and Walker reportedly won over many in the front office during his interview. And according to this latest update from Jerry Crasnick, Walker not only feels rejuvenated, but finally back at home.
He is, after all, a Georgia boy.
Here are a few snippets from the article:
"Larry is an outstanding baseball man," Wren said. "I've known him for 25 years and he is really good. But for whatever reason, it wasn't a good fit for us. Just because it isn't a fit doesn't make him a bad coach or a bad baseball guy. It just didn't work."
According to Wren, a "perfect storm" of developments led the Braves to Walker. Jim Fregosi, a special assistant to Wren and former White Sox manager, was strongly in Walker's corner, and the Braves liked Walker's mix of old-school fundamentals and receptiveness to new-age technology and information. Walker also has an amiable, disarming way with people that the Braves think will resonate with the team's hitters. No matter how well-conceived the message, it's meaningless if no one is listening.
And as for the close acquaintanceship Walker likes to have with his players:
In Chicago, most players fled the cold during the winter months. It's a different story in Atlanta, where many Braves call the city home year-round. In January, Walker held get-acquainted sessions at Turner Field with Heyward, Jones and Freddie Freeman. McCann and Uggla also passed through to take some swings and participate in the dialogue.
The early reports on Heyward are encouraging. He's dropped about 20 pounds to a reported 235, and appears to be "on a mission," in Walker's estimation. Heyward is working on taking a more direct path to the ball to avoid going around pitches and pulling all those weak choppers to the right side. After the first extended failure of his baseball career, he also needs to regain his self-confidence. From the coaching staff to Heyward's fellow players, it's been a collaborative effort to get him to the right place.
Just every player in baseball looks great this time of year, but it really does sound like Walker will be a solid fit in Atlanta. The biggest test will come with Heyward, Freeman, Pastornicky and other young players; in Chicago, Walker received high praise from the veterans, but just about every young prospect in their system failed to pan out under the hitting coach. We will never know whether or not that was directly because of Walker, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.
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