Showcase | Story | 6/14/2021

Day off? Walton says, 'No thanks'

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: TayShaun Walton (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – As one of the younger elite prospects in the national prep class of 2023, TayShaun Walton has had the opportunity to double his pleasure and double his fun on more than one occasion in what has already been an action-packed four-plus year Perfect Game career.

The 16-year-old Walton, a junior-to-be at Maury High School in Norfolk, Va., has made a habit of embracing every opportunity that comes his way, especially those that have presented themselves on PG’s biggest national scouting platforms.

A 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-handed hitting outfielder with excellent speed and elite athleticism, Walton has developed into an attention-getter wherever he lands. He’s done that by realizing at a young age that nothing, absolutely nothing, comes to those who choose to sit on the sidelines and watch the parade pass them by.

“It’s definitely a step-by-step process,” Walton told PG this weekend during his working visit to the East Cobb Baseball Complex. “You can’t do everything too fast. Some things you’ve got to go slowly with and just progress with it. Like baseball, you don’t just wake-up and say, well, I’m going to do this. It takes time and you’ve got to put a lot of work in to get there.”

An unbelievably strong work ethic has helped Walton climb to No. 6 overall (No. 2 outfielder) in the national class of 2023 prospect rankings. A Miami (Fla.) commit, he was at the East Cobb Complex this weekend so he could take part in the PG Junior National Showcase, the second straight year he performed at the prestigious underclass event (the 2020 Jr. National was held in Hoover, Ala.).

He was one of eight top-15 2023s who will be in attendance over the event’s five-day run that began on Saturday, with four of the top guys ranked ahead of him – No. 2 Cam Collier, No. 3 Maxwell Clark, No. 4 Aidan Miller and No. 5 Ethan Robinson – also on hand. And that’s the point.

“It’s something that you’ve got to be very dedicated to,” TayShaun’s dad, Antwan, said during a conversation with PG this weekend. “As I’ve always told him, as long as you want to keep working, we’re going to keep on pushing – you can’t take any days off. The day you take off is the day somebody gets ahead of you, so we kind of live with that mindset of no days off.”

Not long after completing his workout session on Saturday, Walton told PG that the experience already felt completely different from what he went through in Hoover a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic was still raging late last June, his high school season had been cancelled and he just hadn’t been able to properly prepare himself.

That changed this year. He got a full high school season in and was able to get back into a more regular workout routine and he felt much more prepared when he arrived here Saturday.

“Last year was still a lot of fun coming out here and meeting new people; it was a good experience,” Walton said when asked why he wanted to come back to the Jr. National again for this go-around. “The fact that with us being in different states and not seeing each other as much until the summer, it’s good seeing all the guys and hanging out with them...Coming into this one, I know the stats that I had last year. This year I’m working toward having a lot better stats than I had then.”

He was able to make that happen to a certain degree, although the differences weren’t drastic. His top exit velo this weekend was 98 mph, down a tick from the 101 mph he posted in 2020. His 6.75-second clocking in the 60 was a nice jump from the 6.87 he ran a year ago and his 86 mph throw from the outfield was a notch above his 84 mph effort in ’20.

Walton’s BP session on the other hand brought rave reviews from the PG scouts monitoring it. A collective report called it “one of the most impressive rounds of batting practice” and “one of the louder rounds of the day” while noting Walton’s “obvious power and strength in the frame.”

It’s a common theme that seems to repeat itself at every stop Walton makes. He doesn’t shy away from competition having already been rostered at 40 PG events with two more summer and fall seasons still to go.

The PG showcase circuit has always provided a monster stage on which Walton has excelled  with unbridled abandon. He turned in a pair of Top Prospect List performances at the 2018 and ’19 PG 14u National Showcase to go with another at the 2019 PG Sunshine Southeast, and a Top Prospect Team performance at the ’20 Jr. National (there is no TPL at the Jr.).

Upon completion of the 2019 14u National, Walton received a coveted invitation to the 2019 PG 14u Select Baseball Festival in Fort Myers, a badge of honor worn by quite a few 2023 prospects in attendance here this weekend.

“The 14u Select Fest, that was probably the funnest event I’ve been to; I worked hard to be selected to that game,” Walton said. “And on top of that, that’s where I first met a lot of these guys. The experience there, with the [players] room where everybody goes to play video games and have fun with each other. Then taking it out on the field and still having fun, it was a great experience.”

Added his dad: “That was very exciting because that was one of his goals. We were all very excited because anytime he can reach a goal that he sets out is always a joy to see.”

Because Walton is young for his class, he was able to pull the rare double-double of being at the 14u National twice and now the Jr. National twice. In that regard, he is starting to feel like things are coming full circle a little bit, at least as much as they can in the two years between the 14u and 16u seasons.

He did contrast the events, however, calling those at the 14u level more of a “welcoming party” while saying that now, in his 16u season, “It’s time to go, time to put my name on the map. I’ve got to make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to do...and hopefully put myself in a great position.”

Walton got his travel ball career started with the NBA Nationals which was basically his hometown team right there in Norfolk. He said he just finished up his 2021 high school season with a lot of the same kids who were on those 12u and 13u teams; he looks upon most of them as brothers just because of all the family-like experiences they’ve enjoyed.

After NBA, he first moved on to one nationally prominent program, the Virginia-based Richmond Braves, and is planning on spending this summer with another PG national championship program, the North Carolina-based Dirtbags.

Walton has accumulated plenty of accolades and awards throughout his travel ball experiences already, including 15 all-tournament team selections with both the Nationals and the Braves; he was the MV Player at a 12u PG Super25 tournament in 2017 while with the Nats.

“Everybody is just like family now,” Walton said of the entire group, “We’re just like brothers. … I spend a lot of time with the guys off the field and that’s where it really counts. If you’re on the field and you don’t have a bond off the field I don’t think it really matters (as much). When you have a bond off the field it’s more like you can talk to (your teammates) instead of coming at them head-on.”

Family is important to TayShaun Walton; that becomes evident early on during a conversation with him. When asked who may have had the biggest impact on his baseball career to date, Walton didn’t hesitate while naming his older brother Antwan Walton (same name as his dad).

The younger Antwan is a recent 2021 graduate of Maury HS and a PG top-500 right-hander/outfielder who has signed with D-I Old Dominion University.

“He’s amazing; I look up to that guy every single day,” TayShaun said. “I try to make him proud.”

The elder Antwan played college basketball at Virginia Union University in Richmond (Kimberly Walton played hoops at Elizabeth City State University) and played professionally for one season overseas in Iceland. He has a baseball background, too, and admitted that baseball was actually his favorite sport during his youth.

“I stopped playing once I got to high school and became 6-foot-4 and started dunking (a basketball) so I kind of lost interest in baseball,” he said with a laugh, “and that was a bad mistake.”

As for his college commitment, TayShaun Walton said he was only 12 years old the first time he visited the University of Miami in Coral Gables and it was love at first sight. He was able to spend some time at the beach and marveled at how beautiful the setting was during the evening hours.

And as for the baseball program, he said the Hurricanes coaches treated him like he was already part of the family.

“Just good people and I feel like they really welcomed me in,” Walton said.

When TayShaun, along with his mom and dad, first started out on this journey, they made it a goal to reach the level of competition the PG Jr. National Showcase presents. Deep down, he had always wanted to share the same stage with the other elite prospects from the class of 2023.

The family followed a lot of these other guys, too, doing their homework to see what the best of the best were doing to better themselves and bolster their profiles.

“We just jumped right on in and here we are now right here with them,” Antwan said. “The goal is to keep on building and keep on getting better.”

Keep getting better; keep getting better; keep getting better. Those three words drive TayShaun and his dad almost to distraction.

“I feel like every year I get better and better; that’s what I work for,” TayShaun said. “I’m just training every day, eating [right], working [on mechanics]; just doing the things that I can work on to get better each and every day.”

Antwan told PG that his son never stops challenging himself and that was among the biggest reasons why he decided to return to the PG Jr. National less than 12 months after attending the 2020 version. It’s a lifestyle that is measured by day-to-day improvement and what better way to accomplish that than being measured against your top peers.

TayShaun still has a lot to learn, his dad noted, but he still has a lot of time to complete his lessons with nothing short of straight-A’s. The goal, according to Antwan, is to have everything put together into what he called “one fine-tuned package” by the time his senior year rolls around in the fall of 2022.

That package is still unwrapped, waiting for many other prized pieces to be tucked inside. The Jr. National is TayShaun Walton’s first PG event of the summer with more certain to come in the months ahead, most while wearing the signature camo uniform of the Dirtbags. But this was an excellent place to launch the ship.

“It’s always good to come here so you get a chance to lay eyes on the other elite kids, as well,” the elder Antwan said. “That lets you know that, hey, you’re not the only one out here working. There’s more kids out here that’s capable of doing exactly what you’re doing.

“You get to challenge yourself a little bit more, too, and that keeps you humble and working hard. You know you can’t take days off because these guys, they’re right there with you; it makes you just want to keep on working.”

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