Greg Walker on leaving Chisox for the Braves: ‘It’s a lot of fun’

"Listen to me, Frank, and you'll be hitting .300 in no time." (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

"Listen to me, Frank, and you'll be hitting .300 in no time." (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Greg Walker, the Braves’ new — and, if early returns are to be trusted, wildly successful — hitting coach, returned to Chicago on Monday and made the media rounds. Walker had spent nine seasons with the White Sox, helping the Pale Hose win the 2005 World Series but ultimately falling from favor with general manager Kenny Williams.

As Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago writes, Williams fired Walker after a clubhouse spat last August only to be overruled by owner Jerry Reinsdorf. (And here we thought Frank Wren could get impatient.) According to Levine, some in the organization blamed Walker for the lack of success enjoyed by prospects Gordon Beckham, who’s from Atlanta and who played at Georgia, and Brent Morel. And it didn’t help that the relationship between Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, who can be high-maintenance, had clearly reached the point of diminishing returns.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Walker went on WSCR-AM 970 and admitted he’d stopped being himself:

I made some mistakes last year on the South Side. You try to learn from them and move on … I had quit being myself. I had started coaching on my heels, not being aggressive, maybe worrying about what people thought or perceptions and in the past I really didn’t care, I just did what I thought was right.  I think the situation other there just got me to be kind of defensive, and not as positive, not as much energy as I needed. … I needed a change.

Walker told Levine that he’d been given the chance to stay under new White Sox manager Robin Ventura but declined. He said he “shook Kenny’s hand [and] wished him well.”

Under Walker, the Braves lead the majors in runs scored and are second (behind St. Louis) in the National League in batting average. (They were 13th last season under Larry Parrish.) The White Sox under new hitting coach Jeff Manto are 11th in the 14-team American League in runs scored, eighth in batting average. Beckham, who hit .230 last season, is hitting .218. Morel, who hit .245 in 2011, is hitting .182.

I’d say the Braves have cause to be happy with their new man, and the feeling seems mutual. “We have a great team and they are playing well,” Walker told Levine. “I am enjoying coaching more than I have in a long time. It’s a lot of fun again.”

By Mark Bradley

67 comments Add your comment

Bobby Cox

May 8th, 2012
2:56 pm

“He’s a good kid”

Rickster

May 8th, 2012
2:59 pm

Dang. Second. Hopefully some pseudo kudos?

Rickster

May 8th, 2012
3:00 pm

Could Walker be the next Charlie Lau?

Drex

May 8th, 2012
3:02 pm

GTanner

May 8th, 2012
3:06 pm

Them south Georgia boys can play some ball.

Mark Bradley

May 8th, 2012
3:06 pm

Pseudo kudos? I like those.

Rickster

May 8th, 2012
3:10 pm

Heck… give the Kudos to Greg Walker.

Marcus

May 8th, 2012
3:12 pm

Nice. keep the hits coming ….

Stank Wren

May 8th, 2012
3:25 pm

Atlanta is far better than the scummy street of south Chicago

Red Clay Hound

May 8th, 2012
3:35 pm

Good on ya Greg!

mountain_jim

May 8th, 2012
3:43 pm

I am still curious how this hire went down. Last year after the collapse, Freddy said ‘no changes’ to staff, then a day or two later,Parrish was fired.

It appeared to me that Freddy intended to keep his bud despite the team’s terrible hitting performance last year and Wren said ‘nope’ to that.

Obviously Wren, or whoever forced the change, was right.

DouglasDawg

May 8th, 2012
3:44 pm

He was our neighbor when I was a little boy! Glad things are well for him and the Braves!

Joe 12-Pack

May 8th, 2012
4:25 pm

Are we going to have a sequel to “Moneyball” in the works?

banned_schemula

May 8th, 2012
4:42 pm

Even Fredi is preferable to Ozzie.

Paddy

May 8th, 2012
5:12 pm

mountain_jim……it is rare that a GM will over rule his MGR. But it happens. My guess Fredie had 2nd thoughts after some organizational meeting, when all the cards were laid out.

Deanna

May 8th, 2012
5:19 pm

Thank God he’s taught the boys to hit the other way! It’s made all the difference!

Hillbilly D

May 8th, 2012
5:20 pm

I like Walker and think he’s doing a good job but y’all know as soon as the team goes into its first hitting slump, a large number of folks will be pushing him under the bus. :lol:

DaveD

May 8th, 2012
5:52 pm

Why are we still prominently citing batting average in pieces like this? It’s good that we’re talking about runs scored; why don’t we talk about those things more strongly correlated with runs scored, like OBP, OPS, or some of the advanced metrics that adjust for park effects? At this point, everyone who’s a serious baseball thinker knows that BA is a lousy measure. Come on, Mark.

Class of '98

May 8th, 2012
5:52 pm

Mark, can you explain how a guy like Mickey Hatcher gets the hitting coach job in Anaheim? Did he even hit 50 homers in his CAREER? And he is supposed to “help” Pujols? Isn’t that like Mike Luckovich being paid to coach Pablo Picasso how to paint? Did Shaq need a “dunking coach”? I don’t understand.

Nativebird

May 8th, 2012
5:55 pm

Hitting coaches aRe marginal at best at the big league level. They should all be In the minor leagues..as instructors. By the time you get here, if you need a hitting coach, you won’t be here long. In the end, they are like caddies in golf….they can line up the putt, tee up the drive and give you yardage to the green…..but the PLAYER has to make the shot. You are all alone in a batters box. It is solely up to the hitter….and having “experts” tell you how to do it only goes so far. People will be crucifying this guy once the Braves go though their annual cant hit the side of a barn slump…and they will as surely as the sun comes up. So let’s put this guys Hall of Fame bust back in the closet shall we? This game is about players….not coaches. All coaches prime directive should be Do No Harm. Stop over coaching…get good players and let them play. (Freddie).

GT

May 8th, 2012
5:56 pm

When you come back more times than anybody in baseball, somebody is doing something right. They are never out of a game no matter how far behind they get.

Hillbilly D

May 8th, 2012
6:26 pm

Class of 98

Charlie Lau was a .255 hitter, lifetime, and he helped George Brett.

Sonny Clusters

May 8th, 2012
6:36 pm

A coach can only do so much. Say you have Pop-Pie arms and you swing hard at everything and you miss a lot. What’s a coach going to say? “Take a little something off and put the ball in play?” Ha! Fat chance of that happening. We think a hitting coach is only as good as the best maple bat and we all know that maple bats are susceptible (first use of susceptible in this blog) to breakage. We forgot what our point was but, hey, it’s just a blog.

flagger

May 8th, 2012
6:37 pm

Let him help Dan Uggla keep from striking out with men in scoring position.. he has less rbi’s than Chipper and hits where the men are on base and Chipper has missed several games.. If u r reading this blog its for u freddie g.

GT Alum

May 8th, 2012
6:39 pm

Class of 98 -

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

GT Alum

May 8th, 2012
6:41 pm

Sonny -

Uggs actually did go the other way to drive in some runs a couple games ago, but, yes, it does happen infrequently.

TRUTH BE TOLD........

May 8th, 2012
6:47 pm

We fans have NOT seen a braves team hitting like this in like……………………FOREVER??!! Just ask yourself this……………….. in years past if OUR team had been down 6 runs to a team(colorado) early in a game how many would have believed they would have COMEBACK & WON!!!

Class of '98

May 8th, 2012
6:47 pm

I looked it up, Mickey Hatcher hit 38 homers in his career. THIRTY-EIGHT. And he is ALbert Pujols’ hitting coach.

On a related note, Abe Vigoda is now Tom Hanks’ acting coach.

Big Enos Burdette

May 8th, 2012
7:05 pm

Class of 98- you got it all wrong son. Abe Vigoda is Brad Pitt’s mentor on picking up chicks.

ACE

May 8th, 2012
7:21 pm

You just have to tip your cap and believe the back of the bubble gum card.

Vet.

May 8th, 2012
8:56 pm

GT some do both..Greg Walker is a damn good man and coach. I’ve known him for 27 years and he’s smart and works 24-7 loves his job. Go Braves.

Vet.

May 8th, 2012
8:57 pm

Thanks Mark for Info on Walker.

Sonny Clusters

May 8th, 2012
9:09 pm

We was thinking they sure do hit better with him than without him. And yes, we did see Pop-Pie go opposite field but until he can do it a few more times we have to think it was a mistake. This team has a better approach at the plate and Walker must be the reason why. When we was playing ball Stinky Wintes would sometimes approach the plate on tip toes just to change things up a bit.

msd

May 8th, 2012
9:25 pm

I hate your website now that u allow this annoying meebo bar to come on certain pages. Such a pain in the AZZ. AJC sucks for this.

Scummy Southside?

May 8th, 2012
10:25 pm

Southside of Chitown is no “scummier” than many parts of “Hotlanta”, chief.

patjarvis

May 9th, 2012
12:30 am

sonny clusters is my hero.

JASon

May 9th, 2012
1:28 am

“maybe worrying about what people thought or perceptions and in the past I really didn’t care, I just did what I thought was right.”

This is the kind of coach we need, and I hope he means what he says. The laissez-faire, passive coaching and managing style no longer works with the atlanta braves. And quite frankly I’m not sure it works with any team across the league.

YoungerThan ThatNow

May 9th, 2012
2:46 am

If Greg Walker said it JASon, you can take it to the bank that he believes it and means what he says. And I agree, he is just the kind of coach the Atlanta Braves need, and I’m very glad that he’s here!

GO BRAVES!

Jessica Dorrell

May 9th, 2012
4:43 am

Coach Walker, aren’t you going to kiss me?

Jessica Dorrell

May 9th, 2012
5:18 am

Tip your cap to THESE, Fredi.

TommyP

May 9th, 2012
5:50 am

So how come Scott Fletcher gets no mention, Mark?

Orange Brave f/k/a Billy Jack's BBQ

May 9th, 2012
6:18 am

Yep, what is this darn Meebo bar??? Drives me crazy, not towards the advertising.

Yes, and what about Scott Fletcher? what is the real story, Mark?

Chuckie Teeters

May 9th, 2012
6:43 am

Mark, the comment from Walker was “it’s a lot of fun again”. But your headline left off the “again”.

Wondering why? Is it due to your flair for discretion?

secondguesser

May 9th, 2012
6:57 am

Gosh……….I remember going to Douglas as a 11 year old all star to play for the little league district championship and berth for state. We had “Big John” taking the mound with his fireball and we were already looking at the state bracket. After watching a “goofy” Walker launch a first pitch “fireball” on a rope five feet over my head in right field we thought; “eh, lucky swing”. Two innings and a carbon copy later, we were talking about the end of the year pool party at the local rec pool. Incidently, we also only managed a couple of hits off of his own “fireball”. One being from teammate Lindsey Scott(a tidbit for you dawgs. Go Gators!!!!!). Years later my oldest girl tried to take the 12 year old district backstroke title. Came up short on that one too. To a not so “goofy” pretty gal named Lindsay………….Walker. Guy has my vote!

BRW

May 9th, 2012
7:13 am

“Pop-Pie arms” ???
Really???
Olive would be so pissed.

Old t

May 9th, 2012
7:25 am

Enter your comments here

Old Time Fan

May 9th, 2012
7:28 am

Clusters is so clever, wonder why he gives McCann a pass. Seems he is an anchor dragging behind the boat, especially on defense.

TechRon

May 9th, 2012
7:46 am

You can’t argue with the numbers so far. I thought Heyward would never hit. Maybe I was wrong. All that power and they got him out time and time again just by pitching him low inside. Now he is hitting and getting on base! His speed is amazing. He is quite a weapon. Obviously, though, he must get on base. Now that is happening, perhaps thanks to Walker. Heck of a good move.Clearly past “hitting coaches” were not getting it done.

Michael

May 9th, 2012
8:20 am

Batting average as a measure of quality of hitting – NOT. Please use on base percentage and slugging percentage.

DouglasGASAdams

May 9th, 2012
8:35 am

A great hire for a great guy. Thanks for bringing it back home.