One of Donald Walters goals entering the summer season was to work on his power stroke.
Hes achieved that goal as he leads the Watertown Wizards in both home runs and extra-base hits but hes displayed his all-around game as well.
Im loving it, Walter said. I cant complain about anything. Im here getting my work in individually and we have a great group of guys out here on the team. Theres always guys at the gym, its real easy to just work on stuff you want to get better at when youve got a good group of guy surrounding you who can help out as well.
Coming off his junior season at Cal Poly Pomona, Walter has shown plenty of versatility and leads the team in runs scored including a historic effort on the base paths.
Walter got on base five times in a 20-6 rout of Oneonta on July 2 and scored five runs which is a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League record.
That was really fun, said Walter, who led Watertown in runs scored with 35 heading into Saturday nights game at Mohawk Valley. Coach just really wants me in that leadoff spot to get on base for our two, three and four hitters who have been hitting excellent all season. I got lucky, I got on base five times and they pushed me in five times.
Hes one of the better hitters Ive seen in this league, Watertown manager Nathan Kafka said of Walter, who through 30 games was batting .333 (second only to Cole Gleasons .351) and leads the team in slugging percentage (.570). Hes a tough out. He puts together good at bats, he squares the ball up more often than a lot of people do. Hes fun to watch.
Walter, who hit three home runs in this years college season, has erupted for five homers with the Wizards, including four in a span of four games.
I definitely wanted to increase my strength, said Walter, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds. This past season I was more of a contact hitter, I only had three home runs and I wanted to work on my pop to make myself more of a power hitter. Ive worked on my speed as well, which has definitely improved since Ive gotten here.
Walter, who had never batted leadoff in his college career, hit his first home run of the season in his first at bat at the top of the Wizards order against Oneonta on June 23 and has been there ever since.
That was surprising, he said. I really like it, knowing that when were away, Im going to be the first batter. And I really like being able to set the tone for the game and be that spark for our team.
Since then he hasnt looked back and tops the team in extra base hits (15), including eight doubles and two triples, and has knocked in 16 runs.
Its really nice because thats the main focus Ive had this summer, said Walter, who was honored as a co-player of the week for the leagues fourth week. Im still hitting for average, which is what my coach (Cal Poly Pomona head coach Randy Betten) wanted me to stick with, but just getting that increased power really excites me looking forward to next season.
Walter, who has 12 multi-hit games through 30 games, including five three-hit efforts, leads the Wizards in total bases (65) and has been hit by a pitch to reach base 14 times.
Thats the thing with him, he does whatever the team needs, Kafka said. He doesnt go up and try to hit a home run every time he gets hit by a lot of pitches, he takes walks he understands the situation and even bunts, Its great to have a guy like him whos willing to do anything to help the team win.
Besides relishing in the leadoff role, Walter, primarily an outfielder, has also adjusted to playing at designated hitter for most of the season.
Its definitely more mental, said Walter, who is an everyday left fielder in college, because when youre playing in the field, youre engaged in the game all nine innings, youre playing on defense and youre really focused on what the pitchers doing. When youre at DH, it takes more mental willpower to stay in the game when everyone is out on defense.
The Wizards, who return for a three-game homestand beginning Monday versus Cooperstown at 7 p.m. are battling to remain in contention in the PGCBL playoff race.
Were still hanging around as far as a playoff spot, he said. We just have to keep working hard and get on a roll here.
This isnt Walters first trip east to play summer ball as he competed last year in Massachusetts for the Arlington Trojans of the Intercity Baseball League in the Boston area.
That was an awesome experience as well, said Walter, who is studying business law in college. Last summer and this summer Ive been blessed enough to be doing really well and hopefully Ill take that confidence into my college season next year.