When Jordan Walker enters a room you can feel the energy raidiate with positivity. Perhaps it is youthful excitement, maybe it is just natural charisma, but whatever “it” is, Jordan Walker’s got it. At Winter Warm-Up the 20-year-old top Cardinals prospect fielded questions from the media with sincerity and the poise of player that has been in the league for years. This is a player that is just plain going to be fun to watch and along with his teammates Tink Hence and Masyn Winn, Cardinals fans have a lot to look forward to from the next generation of young players.
I don’t plan on doing this for all of the interviews, but here is the full transcript from Walker’s media interview at Winter Warm-Up on Monday. I tried to credit the members that asked the questions, but there were some questions where I was unable to recognize the voice. I tried to keep it as authentic as possible to what was said. There is a lot — nearly 3,500 words — but I think you all will enjoy it!
Introducing: Jordan Walker St. Louis Cardinals Co-Minor League Player of the Year... How’s the crowd in Warm-Up treatin’ you?
Jordan Walker: Oh they’re good, man, they’re good, yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Intro: … And the caravan—
JW: “Yeah the caravan was fun, man.”
Intro: Questions for Jordan?
Question: What’s it like in an offseason where you are going into camp to possibly be a major leaguer? What’s the pressure like, the expectations, the workload, ya know, coming off Arizona… re-vamping?
JW: Right um, because we finished Arizona so late it really hasn’t been re-vamping, it’s kinda just been a little break and then getting right back in to it. But it’s been good, man, you know I talked to Tink-o about it – we called each other and talked about when we were going down and if we were going down early. I don’t really – we don’t really talk about, know, the pressure really, um we don’t really focus on that, we just pretty much focus on having fun down there. We seem really excited about it – I am really excited about it – to get down there and start working. So it’s more something I am looking forward to enjoy rather than put a lot of pressure on it.
Question: Jordan, I know you’ve talked about some of the work you were doing this offseason…. Kinda what have you learned… [unintelligible, something about playing outfield]?
JW: Yeah, obviously – sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off – it’s been uh… not really too much learning... I feel like once I get down to work with Cheo [Jose Oquendo]** you do get a lot of good learning in, but it’s more reps. I’m getting used to, ya know, the route running, reading the ball off the bat, so it wasn’t really too much learning, it was getting more comfortable with reading stuff off the bat and try to make those tough plays.
** Several of the young players referred to Jose Oquendo as Cheo... I have found several meanings of it, but if you know what the kids are talking about these days, feel free to clue us in!
Question: At what point in your profession did you kinda look at the depth chart with Arenado and think that [playing outfield] might be a future for you?
JW: Right – it was always in the back of my head, honestly, with a really good, really talented guy like him [Arenado]. Honestly, you know, it can’t not be in the back of your head. But it really wasn’t something I was focusing on, you know? I was just trying to make the best out of the situation I was in, playing the hardest games, playing my hardest, working my hardest, so when the switch came it felt pretty good to see the thing… And definitely it has been all smiles and I’m not too much worried about it.
Katie Woo: Jordan, when you are look at 2023 there’s obviously a lot of expectations that just come with being the number one prospect, but there is a significant chance you could make this Opening Day roster – how do you handle the expectations both internally and externally?
JW: Honestly I don’t worry about it too much. I’m a little of a “whatever happens, happens” guy. Um, you know, it’s really what I can control, I just try to keep calm, try to play my game and then if things work out, it works out. It’s obviously my dream to play, but I can’t get too worked up if things don’t go so poorly [I think he misspoke and meant “if things go poorly”]. You just gotta keep on pushing so it’s really not too much thinking about it. It’s more – I’m not too much of guy that’ll worry about something like that.
Woo: Does that mentality come naturally to you or is that something you have to work at?
JW: Um, it’s something that definitely I have to work on. I failed a lot in high school, you know travel ball, so… I used to really get worked up about it, but, you know, I kinda learned just to, you know, mellow out, and not – as of right now just… the type of person that I am.
Goold: How have you become comfortable over the years usually being one of the youngest guys on any team you play on?
JW: Man, that’s tough… yeah actually ever since I was little I was always playing up, usually one, sometimes two years up. I just, it’s actually more comfortable for me to play up. I just got used to it. So it really wasn’t something I guess learned over the years, just something that I’ve always been doing.
Question: Last time I asked you about [unintelligible, but I think I heard the word “school”] and you said you would have to talk to your dad, do you wanna share now?
JW: Aw man, you caught me again. I have no idea! But ey, you know what — how about this? If you ask me during spring training I’ll have an answer.
Question: The play you had… the ball goes over your head and to the warning track, you throw the guy out at second base – how do you remember that – because they [Springfield teammates like Masyn Winn and Tink Hence] remember it – how do you remember it?
JW: Well… umm… it felt like a pretty good play. I remember Masyn pretty much yelling “TWO TWO TWO!”, but yeah, I think that was really good because I didn’t know what was going on behind me, but he was really vocal and he let me know what to do and where he was. So he made it really easy for me so all I had to do what just throw it to his glove. Umm, but yeah it was a pretty cool play, Masyn and I talk about it quite a bit.
Question: Were you surprised how easy the transition was for you – was it easy? Going from third to outfield?
JW: I’d like to think that, but no, it was… definitely tough for me and I’m still not, you know, all the way where I was yet. The routes are tough, reading the balls are tough, but I feel like all I can do is work on it and I’m really excited to work with Cheo in the outfield... I feel like he’s gonna give me a lot of progress out there and really learn the basics.
Daniel Guerrero: Jordan, what has it been like to experience this process… [with Winter Warm-Up, being a top prospect along with Tink Hence and Masyn Winn]?
JW: I mean it’s been a lot easier actually having people working with you. I’ve played with Tink in a big tournament in high school and I’ve played with Masyn in some events. So it was really nice having people you already knew that made you look more comfortable because as you guys can imagine coming out in the draft being…playing your first full season there’s a lot of nerves. And there were a lot of nerves – I don’t usually have too many nerves, but there were still nerves for me. But having them with me definitely made it a lot easier having people to talk to who are sharing the same experiences. It wasn’t really easy, but it made it a lot easier in the transition and getting more comfortable.
Brenden Schaeffer: Did you face either of them when you guys were—
JW: No, no, no! I was… I actually was fortunate enough not to face Masyn or Tink. They were really good and they probably would have made me look bad. In high school… they were always on my team when I played with them in high school. And then Masyn… at one event we were playing… we had four different teams play at one event and he pitched, but he wasn’t facing my team. Thankfully. We never – I never faced them there, we were always teammates.
Goold: what’s it mean for you all to grow together? When you guys are in a lot of the same conversations and cross paths a lot, what does that mean going into spring? What’s it mean to grow together?
JW: It’s the same thing, man. It means a lot having them on the journey with me and even when we were all in the Arizona Fall League, so we grew a lot there as well. Facing guys from all levels – there’s some guys from the beginning... from all different levels we definitely grew there. It’s been real fun. We’d be at the field, you know, seven hours, eight hours a day playing baseball and we’d come back and play video games together – all of us in the same room, nobody was talking to each other and we’d all be playing video games. There’s some things that we do – it’s just our way to connect with each other and this is real special for us.
Question: Jordan, you’ve probably been asked this before and I apologize, but who growing up was your favorite baseball player and who growing up was your favorite player in any sport?
JW: Okay, um, that actually was… I don’t think I’ve ever been asked in any sport, but favorite baseball—so I’m from Atlanta so my favorite baseball player um… Hank Aaron and Chipper Jones. Hank Aaron – I met him so that’s why he was my favorite. Obviously I didn’t see him play, but um Chipper Jones growing up was my favorite from Atlanta. He was a switch-hitting third baseman – or power-hitting third baseman, but I aspired to be so I looked up to him. And then wow! Favorite athlete… I gotta think about that. There’s a lot of good ones… I guess I’ll go ahead and be basic and say Michael Jordan. I liked watching him play and hate admitting it because everyone thinks it’s a basic answer, but I would have to say Michael Jordan. I think he’s a freak athlete.
Benjamin Hochman: And—I don’t know if you can [as in remember enough to] talk about this, but a follow up question about Hank Aaron—where was that…
JW: So my grandfather was a vet actually and I was real little so I don’t remember too much of it, but he actually signed a ball for me. There’s actually a picture and if you talk to my dad – I can give you his info – he has a picture of it if you wanna get your hands on that. But yeah, I met him so I really looked up to him and grandpa would tell me all the stats and I was the happiest kid in the world.
Schaeffer: How much fun have you had watching your family at this weekend because I know you got both here and they’re loving it, it seems like… are you enjoying watching them interact with Cardinals fans?
JW: Oh yeah, man, it’s a lot of fun watching them. They are big fans. They are big fans and ever since I got drafted by the Cardinals. You saw them all decked out in their Cardinals gear…
Question: Is the Braves gear in the back of the closet?
JW: Actually my dad threw out his Braves telephone case that he had… so yeah we don’t talk about it anymore.
Question: Jordan, what’s it like – do you feel the momentum from the fans? Sometimes there’s a prospect who comes up and you haven’t really heard a lot about them, but they’ve all heard of you… Going out on the caravan’s do you feel the momentum of them kinda pushing you?
JW: It definitely gives me something to play for. Them cheering for me, man, it just makes me even more want to get to St. Louis to play for them and you know, put on a show for them. So yeah, I guess your question… it absolutely does push me towards, you know, being a better player.
Kyle Reis: Jordan, you’ve had a lot of success – The Arizona Fall League took your season a little bit deeper, a bit longer – how do you feel like your endurance has changed the last couple of years? What was the toughest thing about the Arizona Fall League?
JW: It definitely was… I think the tough thing with the Arizona Fall League was having the week break before it. I mean, I wouldn’t have said this at the time, but I think as of right now I would have much rather have continued playing. At the time at the end of the season I would have said ‘no’, but… I think… what… the difference is pretty big and my first full season I only played 87 games. But this year I played around 120 plus the games in the Arizona Fall League which I am very excited about because it has built me up and I wanna be that player that plays 162 games in a season so I’m definitely very excited about that change in endurance.
Question: People see the size and think “Home Run Hitter”, but there was only one month last year when you didn’t hit .300 – how much do you pride yourself on being a complete hitter and not just a guy who is all or nothin’ in homeruns?
JW: I wanna be a complete player so obviously it means a lot to me to not just be like a “power hitter”. I want to be a “hitter” in general. You know, when things get tough, to be able to put the ball in play and get on base. So it does mean a lot to me to be a hitter and not just be a power hitter. And I work a lot on my contact as well. It didn’t I guess, if I get in detail, I like to put the machine on a fast as it can possibly go to tune up a little bit and try to put the bat on the ball and poke it somewhere. Honestly there is some things—sometimes where I put the machine at a fastball down the middle so I can crush it, but I also do work on, you know, sometimes when I am feeling a little beat at the plate, just still being able to get a hit out of it so it’s very important to me.
Schaeffer: You mentioned that not wanting to focus on the things that are beyond your control like when you get a call up and things like that, but with this opportunity in Spring Training what are you hoping to show the major league staff now that they are gonna get a chance to get a longer look at you… what do you want them to see about Jordan Walker?
JW: All that I really want is for you to see that I’m ready to play. That I’m ready to go out there and preform.
Question: You mentioned your idols, Aaron, Michael Jordan… Where does your first name come from?
JW: Oh so my mom named me Jordan and actually she doesn’t – she probably did tell me and I probably forgot. She told us when we were little what our names… My middle name – I’m named after Alexander the Great for my middle name, but Jordan… she definitely told me and let me get back to you on that.
Question: So it’s not Michael Jordan?
JW: No, no, absolutely not. No, my mom, she’s not a fan of sports so she couldn’t…
Question: Did you play all infield?
JW: Yeah pretty much.
Question: So do you think of yourself as an infielder?
JW: Not anymore! No anymore, I feel very versatile and actually you might be surprised, I played some shortstop in high school… shortstop, pitcher, I feel like I play pretty much anywhere.
Question: What about your baserunning?
JW: [chuckles] I don’t think anyone wants to hear about that… Um, yeah I feel like a very confident baserunner, actually someone told me – I think it was Masyn – he’s very, he’s a very smart player, he definitely gives me tips on how to run and its easy for him, yeah he’s explosive, he’s a lot smaller than me so has less to move. But, um yeah he’s got a lot of tips about baserunning and then I kinda try to catch people off guard. There’s a lot of pitchers that told me – someone I face this year, he told me that I snuck a base off him because they weren’t expecting me to steal and I kinda hope to keep it that way. I feel like I’m a little bit faster than what I put on and so I kinda hope to just help the team by getting some bags that catch people off guard. But I’m definitely working on being more explosive and getting faster so I can be a complete player and not just be a hitter, but somebody that can run as well.
Question: What does it mean to be here at Busch Stadium and see the end goal? Does that drive you to get change to look out on the field…
JW: Absolutely! I got a chance to get a real long look at the field earlier today, man, and it really is giving me the push. I’m ready. I’m ready to get going. I’m ready to try to make the team. So just being here is giving me a little extra drive to try to make the team and be ready to go to St. Louis.
Question: When you see this last season across baseball, Rodriguez, same age — 20 years old , made it to the majors, Michael Harris II, does that give you some confidence that you’re… these guys made the league and that you can… [unintelligible] ?
JW: I’ve always been confident in myself, but seeing them do it is awesome. They’re really, really talented players and of course like seeing them I think I can do it too, that is something to goes across your mind. But I guess as if… I’m pretty confident in myself already so I already felt like I could produce in the big leagues. And I’m a confident guy, I’m confident in my teammates and I’ve had a lot of help to get here so just all that builds up and gives me the confidence that I’m ready to go.
Question: Before Masyn’s throw in the Futures game what was your conversation with him – I’m sure he was kinda volunteering to his teammates about what his plan was…
JW: Yeah he said, word-for-word, “If I get a ball, I’m gonna let it loose.” And uh… he did. And I knew it because as soon as it was hit to him I was like “Okay, here we go.” And I was like… I didn’t know how hard it was, it seemed pretty firm, and I know he can throw harder which is the scary part about it. But man, it was so cool and I knew if I had a ground ball I was gonna try to beat him. We actually had this conversation—we were trying to have a conversation – and I knew he was gonna beat me! But you know, having that competition… you know, you can’t let his head get to big, you know what I’m sayin’?
Question: Jordan, what excites about the Cardinals offense having guys like Arenado, Goldschmidt and a lot of depth from top to bottom?
JW: It feels really good, you know… Obviously Goldschmidt and Arenado… they are really, really talented players and growing up watching them, actually… And actually a lot of my coaching and fielding at third base and shortstop was comparison to Arenado. They were like, pretty much like “Why can’t you do that?” and I’m like “Coach, I’m like 15-years-old…” Having them in the lineup is going to be a real joy and I’m really excited to see what St. Louis can do this year.
Question: We talked about this a little already, but the season is long… tell me about the length of the minor league season…
JW: Oh its tough, man. We don’t play nearly as many games, but I’m gonna go ahead and say we have it tougher because they get to fly, we get to ride the bus for 16 hours. But you know, its all jokes, don’t quote me on that. I think it really is tough playing six games in a row and then hopping on bus to go on a bus trip. Its puts wear and tear on everybody’s bodies, but, you know, they expect us to be ready and I full expect the team to adjust to it. And there’s times where I felt a little bit fatigued at times and I feel like I didn’t get as much sleep but I feel I just adjust to that lifestyle something you need to do because no one said it was easy and it’s definitely not.
Thanks, Jordan, good luck.
JW: Thank you! It was good to see you guys again.