Jordan Walker’s unconventional path to Memphis

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 10:56 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -After destroying AA pitching in 2022 and then dominating Major League Spring Training this year, Jordan Walker originally skipped AAA altogether and made the Cardinals’ opening day roster.

“Oh it was good man,” says Walker of his initial experience in St. Louis. “Absolutely, the fan base, the field, teammates, everything. It was really fun man.”

The #1 prospect in the sport lived up to that billing early with a 12-game hitting streak, tied for the longest such streak by a player 20 or younger to start their career in baseball history.

But by the end of April, the Cardinals sent him down to Memphis after all.

“Just knowing baseball men in general and just knowing baseball players in general, he was disappointed,” said Redbirds manager Ben Johnson. “But like I said, never did he portray that in his emotions in any way.”

The main reason for the demotion?

“I was told to start hitting the ball in the air and that kind of got to me a little bit,” Walker explains.

Wanting a slugger to hit the ball on the ground less and in the air more makes sense, but it’s easier said than done. The adjustments Walker was trying to make were uncomfortable and got to him mentally.

“It’s easy to do, you know you put a lot of pressure on yourself and you get to the big leagues and you want to stay there,” Johnson says. “That can be a lot of pressure for a young player, especially one who’s written about in the same likes of Ted Williams.”

Struggles ensued in Walker’s first few weeks as a Redbird. Then he decided to get back to what made him the top prospect in the sport, and stop worrying about hitting the ball in the air. With it, Walker looks a lot more like the player many believe is the Cardinals’ most exciting hitting prospect in years.

“There’s no point if I’m trying to hit the ball in the air if I’m not hitting the ball at all,” Walker said. “So I might as well hit the ball hard and if it’s on the ground, it’s on the ground. Try and find the hole and maybe drive a run in.”

“He kind of got caught up in trying to do too much,” Johnson said. “He just needs to make the game simple and enjoy having fun again.”

Walker took the path far less traveled to AAA. He’s soaking in his Memphis experience, but the taste of St Louis has him craving more.

“I want to be in the big leagues for a while,” Walker says. “So it is really cool man.

“I’m having a lot of fun here to be honest. These guys really got me laughing a lot, relaxed and everything. So I do like being here, but my end goal is the big leagues.”

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