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Quiet thunder (Cont.)

Posted: Monday June 5, 2006 7:17PM; Updated: Monday June 5, 2006 8:42PM
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By Matt Remsberg, Special to SI.com, SchoolSports.com

Fans aren't the only group of people who have spent their spring following Walden; professional scouts have been a constant at his games for a while now, but they've been watching him even more intently ever since one of his fastballs clocked in at 99 mph at a Connie Mack tournament at TCU last summer.

Believing Walden was destined to jump straight from high school to the pros, college scouts shied away from him after that tourney and Texas ended up the only program to offer him a scholarship.


Walden's senior season has been like American Idol for high school pitchers. About 10 pro scouts have been in attendance every time he's pitched -- during practice. And as many as 40 scouts have been showing up regularly when the righty actually takes the mound in uniform.

"All the questions he's been facing and scrutiny he's been under has opened him up a bit," says Vaughan. "It actually may not have been the worst thing for him. When he's done with interviews, he'll come over and wrestle somebody to the ground or start up a game of pepper. I think it's loosened him up a little."

Walden certainly wouldn't have been found horsing around earlier in his career. As one of only two sophomores to make varsity a couple years back, he was thrilled to remain in the background, even if his play suggested he was a budding star.

Poise on the mound -- not an overwhelming fastball -- initially propelled Walden into the spotlight, and his ability to change speeds with both a changeup and curveball is what first impressed Vaughan. Even as Walden's fastball has gained steam -- he now touches 93-95 mph regularly -- his off-speed pitches remain his keys to success.

"We'll put him into situations where I think there's no way we get out of this," Vaughan says. "Then he'll strike out three batters in a row and we'll survive. And he makes it look so routine."

From his 16-strikeout effort in a no-hitter against North Crowley during district play last spring to his two-hit shutout versus Allen and stud pitcher Shawn Tolleson in last season's Class 5A Region I semifinals, Walden has always been a step ahead of his competition. But he hasn't only made success look routine against local competition. Walden pitched two scoreless innings without allowing a hit at last summer's Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic, a showcase that featured 38 of the top rising seniors in the country. He also starred at the Area Code Games the summer after his sophomore and junior years.

Those performances on the national stage coupled with his domination on the local level have made him the focal point of high school baseball in the Metroplex this spring.

"Sometimes the attention gets distracting, but I also know it comes with the territory," says Walden. "I want to pitch in the majors and this is all part of getting there. It's an opportunity to prove I can pitch through anything."

Actions trumping words -- what else would you expect from Walden?