When Walton emailed me a few months ago suggesting I should profile him, it took less than a minute to tell that his story was about someone who is not quite right. I thought there might be aabout the mutable nature of online identity, etc. in it, and talked to a lot of entertaining small time baseball hustlers, but for various reasons it didn’t go anywhere.
What I took from the reporting I did, though, was that Walton may be unique. There are lots of fake ballplayers running around—one scout I know who runs a development camp had a job applicant claim he’d pitched for the Mets, apparently thinking that no one would be shrewd enough to run his name through a search engine—and mostly they want either notoriety or to be able to charge more for private lessons.
Walton’s sketchy activities, though, seemed meant to get him a chance he thought he’d been cheated out of. He wasn’t just lounging around talking up his nonexistent contracts with clubs like the Twins and Blue Jays; he actually showed up at baseball academies where real prospects try out for real scouts, evidently ready to impress. How did that go?
“He was with us for a couple of days,” the director of one academy told me. “He was maybe 5’8”, 5’7”. He came down and said he was a 6.3 runner, a 6.2 runner, and didn’t make a reservation. Comes in, just shows up, and didn’t have any cleats. We let him work out with us, and he was not a prospect at all. Supposedly, he was about to get signed, but I thought to myself, ‘I can’t imagine.’ Nice gentleman, but he just didn’t have the talent. He was blowing up my phone all the time; I thought maybe he got hit in the head or something. First time he faced a guy throwing even 88 he was choking up halfway on the bat. We were laughing.”
This is sad and wonderful, and I wish only good things for Walton.