Mike Walker of Simcoe wins two national fastpitch championships

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Simcoe’s Mike Walker grew up behind the plate.

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“I’ve always been a catcher,” said Walker, 17, who played for three fastpitch teams this summer.

“Both of my parents were receivers – and my dad was a (hockey) goaltender, so that’s how I became a goaltender. I watched my mom play (fastball) a lot at Jarvis when I was growing up, but my dad was a coach then.

As a catcher, Walker said he enjoyed being in the game, calling the action.

“You get action every game, you call every pitch, you have something to do every pitch. I like to be in the action the whole game.

He was behind the plate against all the top teams when his Chatsworth Longhorns, based near Owen Sound, won the Canadian National Under-17 Championship, Aug. 10-14 in Saskatoon.

Eight teams participated in the U17 Men’s National Tournament, including Southern Ontario teams from Drumbo and Wilmot/New Hamburg. Chatsworth beat Prince Albert (9-2) in preliminary round, lost to Wilmot (3-2), beat Drumbo (6-5), Napanee (10-3), New Brunswick (11-0), Oji -Cree (16-8) and Saskatoon (9-5).

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Chatsworth shut out Wilmot 9-0 in the semis, then shut out Napanee 7-0 in the final.

“It’s a long drive to Chatsworth for league games so I only play with them in tournaments,” noted Walker, who plays third base when not catching.

Walker also won an International Softball Congress (ISC) II Men’s Championship in Moline, Ill., Aug. 16-20, with Marchio, a tournament team based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“The ISC Second Division is a bunch of younger teams, like we were,” said Walker, who connected with Marchio through a pitcher from St. Paul, Minnesota playing in Junior B hockey in Caledonia who needed a catcher for winter training.

Walker, a Southern Counties goaltender playing representative midget hockey in Hagersville during the fastball offseason, was happy to lend a hand.

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“He came home to some (fastpitch) tournaments and he texted me one day saying they needed a catcher in a couple of weeks. I went down, hit pretty well, caught, so they kept inviting me back and I ended up playing in every tournament.

Walker remembers winning a national championship in 2018, but this summer was his first back-to-back titles.

“It was my first year playing an ISC tournament, and I’ve played in two national championships this year, so it’s been a great year playing for three teams. Winning a national tournament is pretty big.

He also played at the Canadian U20 National Championships in Napanee, August 2-7, with the Hickson-based Simcoe/Rostock Braves (north of Woodstock) of the 11-team Tri-County Men’s Fastball League.

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Rostock finished 4-4 at the National U20 Championships, which were won by Tavistock (8-3).

The tri-county playoffs begin in mid-September.

“Our team in Simcoe has merged with the team in Rostock, north of Stratford. We’re all 04s – our team had five guys, their team had eight, so we really had no other option if we wanted a team (U20).

The Simcoe component includes players from Jarvis and Port Dover.

A Grade 12 student at Simcoe Composite School, Walker said his short-term goal is to play for the Canadian Under-18 team. He would also like to continue playing for tournament teams.

“A lot of teams are struggling to find a good receiver, and even more teams are struggling to find a receiver who will be a second receiver for these tournaments. That’s why I went down to (Marchio), because they didn’t have a receiver to play.

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Later, he might have a future in coaching once his playing days are over.

“I would like to coach varsity teams or something like that,” Walker said. “After high school, I hope to play at ISC and play for Team Canada at my age.”

The plan is to continue training this offseason and maybe play in winter tournaments in Florida or Texas.

“A lot of work in the batting cage,” said Walker, who has been hosting hitting and catching clinics at his home since February 2022.

“We have a batting cage and pitching machine in our basement, so I run hitting clinics – fastball and hardball – for a lot of young kids. The cage is about 45 feet long, so it’s a decent size. I have a few people who come weekly, some twice a week.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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