GRANITE SPRINGS, N.Y. - Before the New York Mets played a doubleheader last Tuesday, their second baseman, Neil Walker, spent a few hours at Summer Trails Baseball Camp on Mahopac Avenue, showing the ropes to dozens of big league hopefuls.
“It takes you back to your childhood days and kind of brings things into perspective over a long season,” Walker said. “[The campers] are out here having fun. It’s just a very pure game. It’s not work for me.”
Walker, the son of a major league pitcher, was born in Pittsburgh and played for his hometown Pirates organization for 12 years before being traded to the Mets over the winter. Initially drafted in the first-round as a catcher, Walker later transitioned to second base. In 2014, the hard-hitting Walker, who has 17 home runs so far this season, won a Silver Slugger Award, which is awarded annually to the best offensive player at each position.
Walker spoke of resiliency in the face of adversity. Most importantly, he told campers, just have fun.
“He had a really good message for kids,” said Jamie Sirkin, director of Summer Trails.
Walker’s scheduled appearance at the camp was moved up earlier in the day as a result of the doubleheader caused by a rainout the day before, but he still made time to appear at Summer Trails. He showed campers proper base-running and fielding techniques, and signed baseballs.
“It’s very important [to be here],” Walker said. “You don’t get a ton of time, but the time that you do have, you want to spend it the right way and make an impact.”
Commenting on his team’s next two months, Walker said the Mets still have their sights set on the division crown. As of today, the Mets are seven-and-a-half games behind the first-place Washington Nationals.
“We’re grinding,” Walker said. “As a team, I feel like we’re in a pretty good position. We feel like we’re getting closer to getting fully healthy and that’s important going into August.”
Professional baseball tutorials at Summer Trails have become an annual tradition. Last year, the camp welcomed New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius. The camp has also hosted other professional New York players, including David Robertson and Lucas Duda.