Walker even more easily dispatches the questions about whether he can become the first .400 hitter in 56 years. "I don't mind people asking me," he says, "because I know it's not going to happen. I'm a career .285 hitter." In fact, on July 2 he slipped under .400—for the first time since early April—during an 0-for-11 three-game minislump.
Not everyone is so sure he will stay down there. Teammate Ellis Burks says that there is a difference between Walker and other players who have recently had a brush with .400 this late in the season. "I think you need speed to do it, and he's got it," says Burks. "Look at guys like Olerud and [Andres] Galarraga. They were up around .400 in 1993 and they slipped. But neither, of them could run like Larry."
While he doesn't expect Walker to stay above .400, Weiss believes his teammate is in the midst of a special season, of the sort that Jose Canseco enjoyed with the Oakland As in 1988. Canseco hit 42 home runs, stole 40 bases, drove in 124 and was unanimously elected the American League MVP. "Walk doesn't have the pure power that Jose had, but he has the same confidence," says Weiss, a rookie with the As in '88. "Every time Jose went to the plate, he knew he was going to hit the ball hard somewhere. That's the way Walk is now."
Weiss says Walker shares another trait with the young Canseco: the ability to float blithely above the fray, seemingly unaffected by the pressures that come with a record-setting individual performance. "They both just kind of wing it," says Weiss. "Although I don't think Jose was quite as carefree as Larry. Jose watched an occasional video [of an opposing pitcher or of his own at bats] before a game, and he'd talk hitting once in a while. I've never heard Larry talk hitting."
Talk hitting? For the most part Walker doesn't even practice hitting. He occasionally takes batting practice on the road, but never at Coors Field and never in the off-season. It's not that he doesn't have a regimen. It's just that it's a little unusual. For example, instead of doing sit-ups or wind sprints before a game, he delivers the mail to everyone in the clubhouse. "He's got his own way of getting ready," says Weiss. "It may be unconventional, but so is he."
So, even if he should hit .400, it's unlikely that Walker will write the next great instructional book on hitting. His philosophy: See it, hit it. The most important part of his preparation is tending to his many superstitions. Among his quirks is an obsession with the number 3. He wears uniform number 33, takes three practice swings before stepping into the batter's box and sets his alarm clock for three minutes past the hour. He got married on Nov. 3 at 3:33 p.m. "And three years later, I got divorced, and it cost me $3 million," he says.
Walker has another important three in his life—his daughter, Brittany, who turns four later this month. She lives with Walker's former wife, Christa, in Seattle, which made the Randy Johnson road trip worthwhile despite all the controversy. Walker says he sees Brittany when he can but admits that isn't enough. When the subject turns to fatherhood, the one-liners do not flow, his confidence fades, and he turns dead serious. He may not often read scouting reports, but he has been spotted in the clubhouse reading Parents magazine. "I do what I can, but at the same time, I'm not sure how good I am at it," he says. "As little as I see her, it's tough not to wonder, How good a father am I? How good a dad could I possibly be?"
Walker estimates he spends a month and a half with his daughter in the course of a year. His parents recently brought Brittany to Colorado to visit during a homestand, but Walker says that didn't make things any easier because five days later he was back on a bus to the airport—and there was his little girl waving goodbye, out of his life again. "She didn't want me to go; then she asked if she could come with me," he says. "That just killed me. I get on the bus and sit down next to Billy Swift, and he just looks at me. Tears are streaming down my face. That's something the public doesn't see. We hurt. We're human. We have feelings. We cry, as you're going to see if I keep talking about her."
When he really wants to torture himself, Walker listens to a sad, slow Alabama song called In Pictures. He says that's the only way he can watch his girl grow up—in pictures. He says he will always envy all those fathers who are there each day for their kids. "Believe me, I feel very guilty about it," he says. "I can spoil her to death when I see her, but that doesn't change the fact that when she wakes up in the morning, I'm not there."
Where's Walker? In the end, there is only one person in Seattle to whom he owes an explanation.