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All American Game  | Story  | 8/8/2022

Competitive Drive Finds Jenkins in PGAAC

Riley Sheppard     
Photo: Walker Jenkins (Perfect Game)
While his PG All-American invite shows the level of player Walker Jenkins is now, the motivation to make it here came years before the spotlight.

“When I was six years old I played up with some of the older kids and had a chance to make the All-Star team, but ended up getting cut and didn’t make the team,” Jenkins said. “I think that’s really when I started to feel that drive and just love for the game and just wanted to be the best at it as I can.”

Jenkins, a North Carolina commit since the age of 15 and No. 5-ranked player in the 2023 class, found himself with another opportunity to prove those wrong just two years before making his commitment.

“When I was 13 years old I got cut from the Canes National Team and I remember that one bothered me,” Jenkins said. “They said I was too slow, unathletic and wasn’t a good enough ballplayer, and I was like, ‘Okay if you think that about me I’ll go and prove you otherwise,’ so I don’t really forget what other people say, little things like that just drive me.”

Prior to his senior year of high school this fall, Jenkins will have the opportunity to represent the United States in two of the highest levels.

First, making his way to Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on August 28 to play in the 20th annual PG All-American Classic along with 60 of the top high school players from across the world.

The following month, Jenkins will travel to Sarasota, Florida for Team USA Baseball Training Camp, making back-to-back appearances representing the U18 US National Team.

“It was a different feeling when I put on that USA jersey,” Jenkins said. “I feel like I’m representing something a lot bigger than myself. You go out there, you play for the All-Star team, you play for your travel ball team, you’re trying to showcase yourself, you’re trying to get known, obviously you want to win and help the team win, but at the same time it’s somewhat centered around you still. When I went out there for the USA team I was like, ‘This is not about me, this is so much bigger than me.'’’

As the son of former collegiate athletes, with his father Clay playing baseball at NC State and his mother Tana a former volleyball player at William Peace and UNC, the importance of academics were instilled into Jenkins from an early age and has certainly shown, posting over a 4.5 GPA.

“Baseball got really important to me at a young age, and like most younger kids I didn’t want to do homework,” Jenkins said. “So my parents' rule was you can’t go practice baseball until you’ve done your homework, so I’d get home straight after school to get it done so I could go practice baseball.

“Even to this day, at the point where I’m at in my career and in life, school is the No. 1 priority. If something happens to me and I can’t play baseball, as much as I hate to say it, you need to have something to fall back on. I think that’s one reason they put so much importance on it.”

And while the impact he brings on the diamond is undeniable, Jenkins wants to be remembered for more than that, and has done so in a variety of ways. Most notably, making efforts to be an active volunteer in his community, whether that be cleaning his local beach, donating to his church, or passing down the love of baseball to future generations.

“My parents have always told me, ‘You want to be a great baseball player, but you wanna be a better person,'” Jenkins said. “It’s even made a lot of adults want to know more about the game and what’s going on with me and my fellow teammates, so it’s definitely helped baseball grow in our community.”

Finding himself in the busiest summer of his life, Jenkins will never forget the hurdles he overcame to make it to this point.

And while it has been a few years since last getting cut from a team, the lessons he learned from those adversities will be instilled in him every time he steps out on the field.

“I’ve just always been a very competitive person even from a young age,” Jenkins said. “I never liked the thought of someone being better at something than me, and it drove me so much because I wanted to be the best and I wasn’t complacent until I was. Even from the age of six years old I didn’t really understand it, but I still wanted to be the best, and I think that’s had a big impact on who I am now.”