Q&A With Clemson Commit Tom Walker

By Rob Sidwell
Florida Scouting Director

RHP Tom Walker (Pinecrest Prep, 2015) has just recently committed to Clemson. It may seem like it’s a little late in the recruiting process for a 2015 player, but Tom’s circumstances were a bit unusual. I saw Walker pitch early in his junior year of high school and he showed the ideal pitchers body with a loose easy working arm at 86-88 mph and a very fluid delivery. He was a very projectable kid. Two games into that spring he tore his labrum and had to have surgery. He had to work extremely hard to get back into pitching shape in time to be seen by college coaches. He did just that on Dec 7 at the South Florida Elite tryouts. Here’s what Tom had to say about that day and how he came to his decision.

PBR: What were your expectations about the recruiting process? Was it as expected? Easy/Difficult?

Walker: Before surgery I thought the recruiting process would be pretty straightforward. If you pitch well and throw hard then coaches will notice over the four years of high school. After I had surgery I knew I had to rush to find a college to play at. It was a tough process because I did not know how I would come back because I heard about many players who were never able to return after labrum surgery.

PBR: What were you looking for out of a college program to continue your baseball career at?

Walker: I always wanted to go to a big named school that draws a lot of fans but after surgery I just wanted to get a chance to go to a D1 school so I could build my arm back into shape. Once I had more options the program had to have a good strength training coach and the pitching coach had to have the same ideas as I do about mechanics and training.

PBR: Did location or distance from home play a factor in your decision?

 Walker: It played a small factor in my decision. I’ve always thought that when I went to college it would not be in South Florida. I didn’t make my decision based on that though.

PBR: When did the recruiting process really start to heat up for you? Was there a particular   game or event that you feel turned the corner for you?

Walker: The Elite Squad tryout was the first and only event I went to after surgery.  That was the second time I pitched in a game to live batters.  The first time was about a week earlier when I pitched for my school’s fall team.  Every week I threw my arm felt more and more comfortable so at the Elite Squad tryout I was able throw without restrictions.  I started off throwing in the mid 80s but toward the end of the inning I was in the upper 80s and even touched 90.  After this event I got a lot of interest from big time schools that were in attendance.  I also reached out to some schools not at the event and they became quickly interested after hearing about my progress after the injury.

PBR: Where did Clemson first see you? How did your relationship develop with them?

Walker: Clemson was one of the schools I reached out to after the Elite Squad event. I sent them a video of me pitching at the event and they liked my mechanics and projection. It all happened really fast and it needed to since it was late in the recruiting process.

PBR: What do you like most about Clemson and what were the key factors in making your decision?

Walker: What sold me on Clemson was the whole baseball program from the coaches to the weight room.  I felt like the strength coach and the way he sets up the workout was the right fit for me to develop to the best of my abilities.  The pitching coach and I were on the same page when he talked pitching.  I liked the way he structured the throwing programs for the pitchers.  Talking more about the school in general I liked how there was a lot of school pride put into the athletics since there are not many professional teams in the area sporting events draw fans from all over.  That is something you will not see as much at a city school that has a lot of other events to do in the area.

PBR: What other schools were on your short list before you made your final decision?

Walker: Miami and UCF were the other two schools I was considering.

PBR: Who is the best player you have faced in your state, and why?

Walker: Touki Toussaint was probably one of the best players I saw at the high school level.  We faced him last year and he drew attention from many professional scouts wherever he went.  He had professional level tools he was using at the high school level.  Whenever someone has a mid 90s fastball and a sharp curve it will be hard to get a hit off.

PBR: At what point in your career did you realize you were a college caliber player and became serious about taking your game to the next level?

Walker: I was always a good pitcher and had a good pitchers build.  After sophomore year I really focused on pitching and getting stronger. I had a good sophomore year and summer but at the end of the summer is when I think I first tore my labrum.  I took some time off because I only got a X-ray and no MRI. I came back and went to physical therapy and my arm felt like it was in the best shape it’s ever been in. Junior fall I was mid to upper 80s and I was expecting to hit 90 or close to it by junior summer. That all changed two games into the spring when I got a MRI after having a “dead” arm and found out the labrum was torn.

PBR: What advice would you give to young baseball players striving to get where you are?

Walker: I would tell them to focus on strengthening their bodies. That is what got me to the point where I am today. After surgery my body and especially my arm was very weak since I couldn’t do much for about 2 months. I did not focus on lifting super heavy weight I focused on keeping good form and controlling my movements during the exercise. Also monitor how much you are throwing.  I loved to throw so I would throw as hard as I could ever day I could and I never had a sore arm but this is not healthy is you want to play baseball for a long time.

PBR: What is the most memorable moment in your baseball career to this point?

Walker: When I committed to Clemson.  It made me realize all my hard work over the previous 9 months was not for nothing.  I didn’t just come back from a tough injury I came back even stronger and better than before. 

PBR: Preview your high school season for us. How do you feel your team will be? What are your expectations and goals?

Walker: Our team has very high expectations for this year.  Pine Crest has not won a district title in a very long time and we want to start with getting one of those.  Pine Crest had a very strong team last year but we were unfortunate with all the injuries we had.  I think we will be even stronger this year.  We have four ACC commits, 1 SEC commit, 1 Ivy League commit, a D3 commit, and a few younger players that have a future in college baseball.

PBR: Where do you play in the summer? And what has been your most memorable experience with them?

Walker: I played with Elite Squad during the summer.  I wasn’t able to play with them this past summer because of my injury but Elite Squad always puts together strong teams.  It was fun playing in the big tournaments usually facing the other teams best pitchers since the Elite Squad Organization is highly respected.

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