Former Cowboy Close To Home In The Minors
One day we may see Donnie Walton inducted into Cooperstown, but right now, the former OSU Cowboy is working his way through the Mariners farm system.
Walton will be back in the Sooner State next weekend, as the Arkansas Travelers come back to Tulsa.
We caught up with him a couple of weeks ago when the Travs were in town to get his thoughts about coming back home, and life in the minor leagues.
“After college, I didn't think I'd be able to play here again, such a great, beautiful park, and I love being here,” said Walton.
Donnie Walton was back home in Tulsa, this time as a member of the Seattle Mariners Double-A affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers. And back in ONEOK Field, a place full of memories for the former OSU and Bishop Kelley standout.
“This park has treated me well, so far,” stated Walton. “The state championship at Bishop Kelley was one I'll never forget. We won the Big 12 on this field too, and we dogpiled here too. I had two dogpiles here, and those were some good memories to look back on."
Fresh off a College World Series appearance with the Pokes in 2016, the Mariners selected Walton in the 5th round of that year's MLB Draft. After a playoff appearance with a Class-A Everett, and a Cal League title with Advanced-A Modesto, the Mariners promoted to Double-A and closer to home.
“A bunch of people knew in our organization that I played here and played at Oklahoma State, so they were going, ‘Hey, you better keep it going, give yourself a chance to play at this park again,’” said Walton. “Once I got called up, it was hard not to think about looking at the calendar and marking this one down."
Walton earned four starts for the Travs at ONEOK Field, picking up three hits and scoring a run in front of dozens of friends and family, including his 89-year-old grandmother.
“She hasn't been out in a while,” he said. “I have a pregame ritual where I talk to her before every game. I give her a text or a call just to see how she's doing. I don't know how long it's been since she's seen me play."
As Walton adjusts to life in the Double-A, he's able to lean on one of his former coaches at OSU, his dad Rob.
“He knows my swing the best. If something’s going on or I need something to talk about my at bats. I’ve pretty much talked to him about my at bats every night, because he knows, because he's seen me the longest of course,” said Walton.
“I haven't got to see him play much, but you know what, it's his career. It's his time,” his father said. “That separation between dad and coach and player, he needs to move on if he wants to do what he wants to do. I think that's important, because it's his career, not mine."
As Walton continues to work his way up to the big leagues, he's focused on one goal, getting better every day.
“I'm learning every day,” he said. “People might not think that, but you learn something new every day. It's the minor league grind and they call it a grind for a reason. You've just got to find new ways to get over that hump."