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Unlike the NBA and NFL draft, those selected in the MLB amateur draft have the option of returning to school. It is unusual, however, to see this happen four times to the same player, but for Jeff Walters the decision to return to school was simple.
“I went back to school because I always wanted to pitch at a big SEC school like Georgia. They gave me an opportunity to start and that was something I dreamed of since I started playing baseball. It was a great experience and I was able to develop as a player and get an education, something that was very important to me,” Walters said.
While Walters had experienced draft day several times before, he says it was just as exciting the fifth time around.
“I was very excited, I talked to many teams but I didn’t know exactly when or where I would be going. I have always had a good relationship with the Mets organization and I’m just excited to have this opportunity,” Walters said.
Walters is off to a good start in his first full minor league season. Tossing 18 2/3 innings in four starts for the Brooklyn Cyclones, Walters has limited his opponents to a .156 batting average while posting a solid 2.89 ERA with 17 strikeouts.
“So far it’s been going well, the only thing I really want to improve on is going deeper into the games and working into the 6th and 7th innings. I need to continue to attack hitters early in the count so my pitch count stays down,” Walters said.
While the transition from college to professional baseball is challenging for some players, Walters says he thinks he has adjusted well.
“The five day rotation as opposed to the seven day rotation of college baseball has been the toughest adjustment I’ve had to make. In college we had an extra day before our side work and then an extra day of rest before our start and now I really have to concentrate everyday in between starts to make sure I’m ready to start on the fifth day,” Walters said.
Walters is originally from Windermere, FL and he doesn’t deny living in New York has been “a little overwhelming.”
“I am learning how to ride the subway and I think I am actually starting to like all the commotion up here, the fans in Brooklyn are great. It’s exciting to come to the park everyday knowing that we have a couple thousand people that not only want to see the team do well but are genuinely interested in all of the players,” Walters said.
While he spent most of the spring in Extended Spring Training, Walters says he is happy to be in Brooklyn.
“I am really enjoying the coaching staff that is here in Brooklyn, our pitching coach Frank Viola is really helping. Not just me but the entire pitching staff on all the ins and outs of the game of baseball. He has been in our shoes before and he has made it big, I think we all value his coaching a lot,” Walters said.
The Cyclones are currently 11-7 on the season and Walters says he has high hopes for his team the rest of the way.
“The season is going well, we have a good mesh between the guys who have been in the organization and the guys who just got drafted. The last couple games we have been able to put it all together with pitching and hitting, it can only get better from here,” Walters said.
When asked where he hopes to be next season, Walters said “I try not to think about where I am going to end up, I’m just focusing on doing the best I can each start and the rest should just take care of itself."
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