Meadville Tribune

Sports

June 27, 2014

Walters put the ‘P’ower in Panthers

MEADVILLE — During his freshman and sophomore seasons with the French Creek Valley American Legion baseball team, Saegertown’s Tyler Walters donned a jersey which very nearly had his last name stitched on the back.

The jersey read: “Walpers.”

“My first year playing senior legion the uniform came back with a ‘P’ instead of a ‘T,’” he said.

It sort of became a nickname for him. ‘Good eye, Walpers!’

“I didn’t care,” he said. “My parents cared. But it didn’t bother me. And it kind of stuck.”

Well, with his senior season at Saegertown now completed, there are very few people in area baseball who don’t know this kid’s name, his real name, and what that name means.

Tyler Walters — with a ‘T’ — has carried one of the most fearsome bats in Crawford County for years. And he capped off his stellar high school career with one of his best campaigns in 2014. And that’s why he was an obvious choice as the Meadville Tribune’s 2014 Baseball Player of the Year.

“What a weapon,” said Saegertown head coach Tim Crum. “That’s what he was. You knew with one swing of the bat that he could change a game. He could put it out of the park or hit it hard into the gap. You could always count on him to barrel up and rip it.”

The numbers bear this out. This season, Walters — who will play ball at Slippery Rock University next year — led all of Crawford County with a batting average of .593, the most prodigious mark of his career. And among his 32 base hits were 11 doubles, three triples and five home runs. So more than half of his hits went for extra bases, giving him a season slugging percentage of 1.222.

He also drew 12 walks, leaving him with an on-base percentage of .625. And out of 72 plate appearances this season he only struck out two measly times.

Over his career with the Panthers, Walters maintained a batting average of .447. He finished with 106 base hits, 115 RBIs, 34 doubles, four triples and 20 home runs.

What a thorn in the side he must have been for opposing coaches and pitchers.

In fact, Union City head coach Frank Cutshall quipped early in the season that he was going to advise his pitchers to “roll the ball across the plate” when Walters was in the batter’s box.

“His bat speaks for itself,” said Crum.

Yet, it wasn’t just on offense where Walters excelled. He was also one of the most capable and heady backstops around.

“No doubt,” said Crum. “Great arm, great knowledge of the game. He was not afraid to throw the ball down to any base. He was a good blocker. He had all the right tools.

“I know umpires liked being behind him because they knew they weren’t going to get beat up.”

Among Walters’ tools was the ability to work with his pitchers.

“A lot of times we just let him call the game,” said Crum. “We didn’t have to call a lot of games. He understood the game and set batters up pretty well.”

Consider that the last two seasons Saegertown had one of the best pitching staffs in District 10. Last year, it was 19-1 with a 2.43 ERA and 126 strikeouts. This year, the team was 17-4 with a 3.17 ERA and 144 strikeouts.

Of course, the pitchers themselves deserve most of the credit for those numbers. But the most consistent part of Saegertown’s battery during those 41 games was this guy behind the plate.

“Before you have a set position, like in Little League, I played everywhere,” said Walters. “Then my dad asked me, ‘Do you want to play your whole life?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ And he said, ‘Well, let’s turn you into a catcher.’

“So, I caught a season or two and I loved it. I loved being in on every play, controlling the game, being involved during every pitch. It’s something you can’t really experience unless you catch.”

Walters loved the job so much, he began studying his opponents, trying to find an area that he and his pitchers could exploit.

“I know a lot of the players I’m playing against,” said Walters. “I’m not just giving random calls, I know their weaknesses. It’s from playing against them a lot. The kids in the area, I’ve played against them my whole life. And we’ve kind of developed a bond. I’m friends with a whole lot of them.”

So he knows them.

And they certainly know him. On the baseball diamond, Tyler Walters is a hard guy to forget.

“Everybody knew who he was, especially in our region,” said Crum. “They all know full well. I don’t know how many times he heard this year, ‘I’m so glad you’re finally going to be gone.’”

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