Larry Walker sat in his Florida home with his best friend and brother on the night before he was to find out whether he would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and listened to music videos of Canadian rock band Rush.
It was almost too ironic that on Tuesday he became the second Canadian to receive the call to the Hall, joining Ferguson Jenkins, whom Walker calls a friend. Walker will be inducted this summer alongside longtime New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
“I hope it means as much to the country of Canada as it means to me,” Walker said on Tim and Sid shortly after finding getting the call from Cooperstown. “My heart is filled with absolute joy knowing that a ball player north of the border that was a position player can be the first one inducted.
“I’m honoured to join him (Jenkins) and I’m honoured to have a Canadian flag going in with me, I truly am.”
Walker received 76.6 per cent of the 397 votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his 10th and final year of eligibility. He needed 75 per cent of the vote in order to get in.
Jeter, meanwhile, received 99.7 per cent of the vote.
The Maple Ridge, B.C., native’s MLB career spanned 17 years and started with the Montreal Expos before moving to the Colorado Rockies and then St. Louis Cardinals.
He became the first Canadian to win MVP honours in either league when he took home National League honours in 1997 after hitting 49 home runs — tops in the NL — and 130 RBIs along with a .366 batting average, .452 on-base percentage and .720 slugging percentage.
Walker said it’s hard to explain getting into Cooperstown.
“I saw the area code pop up on my phone … it kind of took my breath away,” he said.
Making it in was no sure feat for Walker despite polling well in publicly revealed ballots in the leadup to the unveiling on MLB Network. Even earlier Tuesday he tweeted thanks for people’s support although didn’t personally believe he would get in.
He said monitoring the process was sometimes “absolute joy” while at other times was “complete disbelief.”
“I couldn’t believe how many votes I was getting,” Walker said. “It was quite the trip here the last couple weeks.”
Now he will get to join Jeter during induction weekend from July 24 to 27 to have his name enshrined forever among baseball’s greats. Getting to go in with Jeter, who was in his first year of eligibility, will be like hanging out in a room with Michael Jordan, he said.
“This is one of the icons of the game. It’s a name that everyone knows in baseball around the world,” Walker said. “Here I am, Larry Walker, Derek Jeter’s little sidekick and I’m proud of it.”
Getting inducted into Hall of Fames is nothing new for the 53-year-old Walker. He’s done so in the past on several occasions, although nothing to this degree.
He said in the past he’s winged his speeches. But this one will be different.
“Anybody that has been around me and knows me, knows my biggest thing is worrying about that speech, so I don’t know how I’m going to approach it yet,” Walker said. “I’ve had some sleepless nights thinking about it.”