Walker Weickel: Home on the Range
“Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.”
-“Home on the Range”
TinCaps starting pitcher Walker Weickel is a 19-year-old contradiction.
His interests perhaps paint him as reclusive– someone who gets swept away in literature and movies– but his reality is that he’s dependent on eight other players for his success.
“I’m kind of a dork,” he says. “I like Lord of the Rings. I’ve read all of the Lord of the Rings books. I’m a big Star Wars guy, too.”
Weickel, who stands at imposing 6’5″ and 215 pounds, doesn’t come off as your stereotypical pocket protector-wearing, textbook-toting dweeb from Saved By The Bell. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He dressed Thursday in a casual button-down shirt, and many days prefers a sturdy pair of leather boots. His handshake, well…his handshake makes one feel as though they’re shaking hands with Atlas. As the mythical man carried the world on his shoulders, a stranger’s hand proportionally interlocks meekly with Weickel’s prodigious grip.
“I’m pretty simple. I like reading a lot of historical documentary books whether it be wars, or I love reading books on the Navy SEALS, country western books. Louis L’Amour is one of my favorite authors,” Weickel says.
In those country western novels a recurring theme is survival, which intrigues the Orlando, Florida, native.
“I like the simplicity of the country western lifestyle,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the outdoors and hunting, fishing, living off the land, supporting yourself and making sure you earn everything that you get.”
This is why Weickel, who was drafted 55th overall by the Padres out of Olympia (FL) High School, is somewhat incongruous. He enjoys quiet time–a clubhouse rarity–he says, along with deep thought and introspection.
“I love reading and taking solitude to not only relax but to understand myself better in everything I do,” he says.
On Twitter, he follows an account that tweets quotes from the author C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of books that delves deep into the world of fantasy and mystery. Yet when his turn in the rotation arrives every sixth day, he’s got to be ready to rupture his solitude and face the reality of the baseball diamond, spreading his trust and dividing it by eight.
“Pitching is probably the most selfless thing you can do. Pretty much the entire fate of your career relies on the guys behind you and the one guy that you’re throwing to. You’ve definitely got to learn to balance the two worlds,” Weickel says.
And he’s not afraid to fail. Raised by parents who encouraged him to run for class office in middle and high school, he’s been in the public eye before.
“I think it just kind of goes to say that my parents did a pretty decent job exposing me to different situations growing up, making me do public speaking and things that put me in front of crowds at early ages. They got me comfortable with my own composure and my own body in awkward situations and very tense situations. All of these learning experiences that have built up so far have transferred over to my pitching,” he says.
Despite his success on the baseball field, he says he never won a single school election.
“Nobody likes failure,” Weickel says. “But it’s inevitable. It’s just a part of life that you’re never going to be able to defeat. Being able to welcome failure and being able to understand it makes it that much easier to overcome. Knowing that, at some point you’re going to fail in the game, because it is a game of failure, it makes the successes that much sweeter and it makes the successes that much easier to work off of.”
It’s said a good hitter fails 70% of the time. A Hall of Fame hitter fails 60% of the time. But how much does a good pitcher falter, or even a Hall of Fame hurler? Weickel may discover that this year, as Joe Ross did in his first season in a TinCaps uniform in 2012. Weickel may not discover that this year, as Matt Wisler did in his first (and only) season in a TinCaps uniform in 2012.
Before his last start, he turned to cinema and music for a way to lose himself in the great Midwest.
“I watched Legends of the Fall before I went out there and played and listened to some pretty easy country music. It helps me relax and helps me think of nice places, almost like Happy Gilmore, going to my happy place. That’s what I find successful.”
Wherever the happy place may be for Weickel in the world of country westerns and country music, ultimately it’ll be he who has to play the gun-slinging hero on the baseball diamond.
Here was the view from my office on Thursday, as the TinCaps’ bus never even left Parkview Field. I cracked the window in the home radio booth, sat down with my computer, and listened to the sound of the rain bouncing off of the turf and the tarp. This, folks, is the best view in downtown Fort Wayne–hands down.
Because the TinCaps and Silver Hawks were rained out Thursday, they will make up the game as part of a doubleheader on May 23rd. The first of two, seven-inning games is scheduled to be played at 6:05 p.m. Gates will open at 5:05 p.m. All of the details can be found by clicking here.
To hear my full conversation with Walker Weickel, listen to the podcast below:
Here’s what’s happening at Parkview Field in this upcoming three-game series against the Lansing Lugnuts, Toronto’s Midwest League outfit:
Game and Broadcast Schedule
• Friday, April 19 – Fort Wayne TinCaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts, 7:05 P.M.
• Saturday, April 20 – Fort Wayne TinCaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts, 5:05 P.M.
• Sunday, April 21 – Fort Wayne TinCaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts, 3:05 P.M.
All games broadcast on The Fan 1380-AM (WKJG) and XFINITY Digital Cable Channel 81, with audio streamed online at TinCaps.com.
Supporting Boston Victims
• The TinCaps will make a donation to the American Red Cross for each fan who comes to Parkview Field this Friday through Sunday sporting attire from a charitable or competitive running race (shirt, sweatshirt, hat, bib, etc.)
For Your Entertainment
Friday, April 19 @ 7:05pm
• Wizard of Oz Theme Night
• Community Organization of the Game: Goodwill
Saturday, April 20 @ 5:05pm
• Beer Tasting in the Ortho NorthEast Treetops (Call for reservations to this event)
• Faith in Motion Dancers Pregame Performance in Amphitheatre
• Community Organization of the Game: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Sunday, April 21 @ 3:05pm
• Apple Corps Kids Day Poster Giveaway
• Post-Game Autographs
• Community Organization of the Game: Garrison Group / Rescue Mission
Atlas Genius…take it away!