Major leaguers show country what Davie is all about

Published 11:27 am Thursday, August 1, 2019

As a lifelong baseball fan, Wednesday, July 24 was a day to remember.

Two players from Davie County were on the same field in a Major League Baseball game.

We all know about Whit Merrifield, the Kansas City Royals all-star who can play any position, run like the wind and consistently hit around ..300.

The Royals were making a rare two-night appearance in Atlanta to play the Braves.

The night before, Jeremy Walker, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher in the Braves farm system got the call that every young minor leaguer wants to receive. He was being called up to the big show. He had a flight the next morning, and the next night would suit up as an Atlanta Brave at Sun Trust Park in Atlanta.

That put him on the same field as Whit Merrifield. The intriguing part was that Walker could actually pitch against Merrifield. That didn’t happen, but it was exciting just to have both on the field at the same time, and the chance they could face each other made it even more intriguing.

Both players work out some in the off season at Torque Performance and Fitness, so they recently became friends. Whit sent Walker a congratulatory note and a bottle of bubbly. He also sent him a “what if” message. What if Walker did pitch against him, and he hit a bomb. Walker shrugged off the friendly banter.

Making me even more proud is the way these two young men handle themselves.

Whit set the tone when he first was drafted. In television interviews and on the field, he conducts himself with class. He’s courteous, respectful and gives a good interview. He’s not flamboyant or bragging on the field. He just goes about doing his job – better than most.

Watching the reporters gather around Jeremy Walker in the locker room that first night as an Atlanta Brave made me glad to be from Davie County and glad to be a Braves fan (That started in 1966 when the Braves first moved to Atlanta and I could get the games, after 8 p.m., on my tiny transister radio.). Jeremy, too, calmly and plainly answered every question, even about where he was from. “What town are you from?” was one of the questions. He said Davie County. Hey, we’re one here, and folks from other places don’t always understand that. They pressured him about what town, and he said near Winston-Salem, then Advance. He even told them how to pronounce it as “ADD-vance.” Good job, Jeremy. I hope the next big interview is about saving a game against the Washington Nationals.

A starting pitcher being converted into a reliever, Walker didn’t pitch that Wednesday night in Atlanta.

But he did pitch on Friday, coming into the game in the 9th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies got a ground ball hit on the first pitch, but two pitches later a double play. The next pitch was a soft fly ball to center field. A great start in a Major League career.

The announcers got it wrong when they said he was from Forsyth County, although he did go to high school there at Calvary. Friends and family from Davie County were at both games, and met him on the field.

He pitched again on Saturday in the 9th inning. Three batters up, three outs.

The Braves are in need of a closer, a pitcher who can come in at the end and keep the other teams from scoring. And it appears that Jeremy Walker, a hard-working, humble young man from “ADD-vance” is going to get the chance.

Keep that up, young man, and you could get some saves in the playoffs, or maybe even in the World Series, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Remember, I’m a lifelong Braves fan.

It’s a great time to be a baseball fan from Davie County, North Carolina.

Last week, I wrote about the homegrown tomato, promising to say whether it is a fruit or a vegetable.

It’s a fruit if you’re a botanist. It’s a vegetable if you’re a chef. Maybe that clears it up.

– Mike Barnhardt