Thursday, June 11, 2015

Frank Theron Gardiner 1936 -

High school baseball: Easton Walker a worthy choice for 2015's Mr. Baseball

Published: Monday, June 8 2015 12:25 p.m. MDT
Updated: Monday, June 8 2015 3:09 p.m. MDT

Easton Walker is the Deseret News' 2015 Mr. Baseball at Pleasant Grove High School, Thursday, June 4, 2015.
Chris Samuels, Deseret News
PLEASANT GROVE — Considering the family he was born into, along with the name he was given, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Easton Walker developed into the baseball player that he is today. The Pleasant Grove senior is this year's Mr. Baseball, an award he came by after a lot of hard work and a lot of quality help from everyone from Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry and his father, Kim Walker, to two older brothers who pushed him every step of the way.

As for those two older brothers, they helped set in motion Easton Walker's pursuit of baseball before he even breathed life.

Kim Walker remembers well taking his sons Braden and Devin to Park Sportsman to buy a baseball bat shortly before Easton was born. The bat that was purchased was one made by the Easton sports equipment company, which gave Devon, who was 8 years old at the time, a great idea.
“I had the warranty sticker sticking up in my visor, and as I placed it up there, Devon turns to me and says, ‘Little brother. Easton,’” Kim Walker related. “And that’s where it comes from. My boys wanted the name, my wife thought it was perfect and that was that.”

A few years after he was granted his unique name, Easton's brothers began to set in motion his development as a baseball player.

“My first memories are playing in the front yard with my brothers with this little foam ball,” Easton said. “They took the time and really competed against me, so I could get better. It was a lot of fun and yeah, I started at a very young age.”

Easton went on to play competitively at the young age of six while his brothers soon developed into top high school players and eventual collegiate players with Braden playing for UNLV and Devin with Utah.

Every step of the way, Easton was taking notes of his brother's development, wanting the same for himself.

“They loved the game so much that they wanted to make sure I developed that same love,” Easton said. “I’m so grateful to them for spending the time, even though they were both quite a bit older than me. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without them.”
The player that Easton became was a dependable and effective player willing to play at the most critical positions.

Henry remembers fondly when Easton entered his program as a freshman to lock down spots at both shortstop and pitcher.

"Those are the two most critical positions on any team and he came right in and played very well right from the start," Henry said. “When he got into this program we weren’t going to state (playoffs), we weren’t winning a lot and now that’s changed, and Easton has been a huge part of that.”
A heavy contributor all four years, Easton began to serve notice during his junior year in 2014. That year he compiled a .424 batting average from the plate and a 9-0 record with a 0.62 ERA from the mound.

It was just prior to that 2014 season that colleges started noticing his stellar play, particularly BYU. He's since signed to play for the Cougars.
“I always expected to play college baseball, and I was determined to always prepare myself to get that opportunity,” Easton said. “Playing college baseball is something my brothers did and I always thought I’d have that same opportunity if I put in the work. So when BYU offered me, that was obviously something I was very grateful for.”

Easton and Pleasant Grove came just short of a 5A championship in 2014 and were determined not to do the same in 2015. With the Vikings returning a lot of talent, expectations were high entering this past season, expectations that Easton and his teammates proved capable of meeting by winning the state title.

As far as Easton's role, he did exactly what Henry became accustomed to over the years. Batting leadoff, Walker batted .418 and scored 44 runs.
“When he gets on base everything tends to go right for us,” Henry said. “He’s been leading off for us and has batted over .400, so that’s huge to have a kid lead off that can get on base like he does.”
From the mound, his numbers dipped a bit from his junior season, but he was still able to put forth a 3.10 ERA and 8-1 record.

So, turns out the name given him ended up fitting Easton nicely.

“We’d ask ourselves, ‘What if he ends up in drama?’ and I’d just say, ‘Well, at least he’d have a unique name.’” Kim Walker said. “So I guess it’s fortunate that he’s become a baseball player, but we grew to love the name regardless of what he decided to pursue.”