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Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, February 6, 2001

B A S E B A L L _ I S L A N D E R S

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Walton works his way
up Blue Jays’ staff

By Al Chase

Bruce Walton anticipates several career choices being available in the not-too-distant future.

He could continue into his sixth season as the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league pitching coordinator.

The ex-University of Hawaii right-hander doesn't rule out managing or being a pitching coach at the major league level or moving up to assistant general manager.

"There is a Y in the road up there and I'm forcing it. You want to do things that challenge you," Walton said. "The ultimate goal would be to take a pitching staff to the World Series and win it.

"My job is fun right now. I'm in charge of 75 pitchers. It's something I like to do, but I'm not limited to just that.

"I do all the filming and video taping. I help the managers a lot with game situations. I'm the only rover that does it and I've been assigned to do it."

Shortly, Walton will travel to Dunedin, Fla., Toronto's spring training headquarters and his home base during the season.

Spring training is divided into three segments, starting with the Blue Jays where he works with the non-roster invited pitchers. Then it's the minor league hurlers, and finally those pitchers in extended spring training.

Once the minor league season begins, Walton travels up and down the East Coast to work with pitchers at Hagerstown, Md., Syracuse, N.Y., Brooklyn, N.Y., and Kodak, Tenn.

"I catch a four-game series in each city. That gives me a chance to see four starters and most of the relief pitchers," he said.

"It allows me to have field access at 1 p.m. I work individually on mechanics and conditioning. Those are the big things.

"Basically I'm trying to fill their goals, the ones they need to go up to the next level. It could be throwing strikes, holding runners, any place where they are slacking.

"We stretch and run as a group at 3 p.m. We go through a throwing program after that. I want to make sure the philosophy is there, running smoothly and the same with each team.

"If fires come up where someone is struggling or the front office wants someone checked out, then I might have to change my plans."

Walton works closely with Bob Nelson, director of minor league operations, and former Major League star Dave Stewart, Toronto's assistant general manager/director of player personnel.

"Bruce's success comes from his knowledge of the game and pitching and his ability to get it across to young pitchers," Nelson said.

"He was a successful pitcher himself, but he had to work hard to get there.

"All of our managers have computers to file reports. Bruce is the most advanced in this respect of anyone in our organization."

Walton files six-day reports. In fact, he designed the template for the pitching reports.

He also works closely with the minor-league managers on game strategy.

"I might ask a manager why he pinch hit for a prospect in the third inning, things like that. I have a wide responsibility that I like," Walton said.

The Bakersfield, Calif., native was drafted in the 16th round after his junior year at UH and signed with the Oakland Athletics.

Walton pitched in the majors for the Athletics, the Montreal Expos and the Colorado Rockies. He switched to coaching full time after the 1995 season when he was a player/coach for St. Paul in the Northern League.

His career highlight came in his major league debut vs. the Yankees in New York, May 11, 1991.

He faced three left-handed batters -- Don Mattingly, Matt Nokes and Bernie Williams -- and got two ground balls and a fly to center.

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