The first thing you notice when you meet Corey Walter
is the size of his hands. Upon greeting him, Walter makes your hand feel like it’s the size of a golf ball. Other than allowing him to dominate every handshake he’ll ever engage in, Walter’s massive mitts play another vital role.
They allow him to hurl the baseball at about 95 mph well into the seventh and eighth innings. As West Virginia University’s likely opening day starter for 2013, Walter is preparing to play a vital role in the team’s inaugural Big 12 season.
Walter, though, was not always known for his hard throwing and that could possibly explain why, despite earning all-OVAC and first team all-state honors at Wheeling Park High, he was over looked by many division one schools. One of them, fortunately, was not West Virginia University.
“It’s nice being from the home state and having the support back home,” Walter said. “People from around the state get fired up when they see people from West Virginia playing for the Mountaineers.”
As a freshman, the Wheeling resident earned just four starts, spending much of his time coming out of the bullpen. Walter took a major leap during his sophomore campaign.
The offseason, when a lot of the developmental aspects of baseball take place, is when he was able to hone his sheer skills.
“My freshman year there were a lot of guys better than me,” Walter admitted. “My sophomore year I developed a little bit, worked hard and earned a spot (in the rotation). That was probably the main difference.”
Whatever he did that offseason worked, because he returned to the diamond in the spring as the team’s No. 1 hurler. Walter began to show the iron-man pitching ability that he had displayed in high school. In 14 appearances last season, he reached the seventh inning nine times, including six consecutive appearances of pitching into the eighth.
In baseball - the collegiate level specifically - rotation management is a key aspect of any pitching staff. Guys such as Walter are like spinach to Popeye for pitching coaches - they allow them to keep their bullpens fresh and rested, while also producing consistent quality starts that give their clubs a chance to win night in and night out.
With so many games scheduled within such a short amount of time, this can play a big role in a team’s success come late spring. Walter’s believes that going deep into games is all about hitting the strike zone.
“I don’t get too many strikeouts, but a lot of my outs come on first and second pitches,” Walter explained. “That keeps my pitch count low, which allows me to go deeper into the games.”
Walter's coming out party was against Louisville on May 5, 2012, when the Mountaineers won, 4-3, in walk-off fashion. In that game, Walter went the distance, allowing just three runs on six hits against the traditionally tough Cardinals.
It might not have been his best game statistically, but what separated this outing from others is that Walter pitched through a two-hour, 24-minute rain delay. For obvious reasons, Walter marks this game as one of his favorites.
“I really enjoyed the Louisville game last year when they came into our park ranked,” Walter recalled. “I came back out and finished the game and ended up getting the win. That was an exciting game that really sticks out in my head.”
Walter was the ace of a pitching staff last year that struggled at times as the Mountaineers’ record dipped to 23-32. He was the only regular pitcher with an ERA under five and he finished the season with a winning, 6-5 record.
With Big 12 play approaching and a schedule that features only eight games in Morgantown this year, it is no wonder that a player such as Walter will play an even bigger role this season.
For someone who regularly goes deep into games, a few extra travel miles this season shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
“We traveled a lot last year,” Walter noted. “Only playing eight games at (Hawley Field) is going to be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.”
One thing is for sure: that extra length between the tip of his pinky finger and thumb will be with him the whole way and that large hand will serve him well when he serves up fastballs to hitters this year.
That is why if you are ever in the position of shaking Corey's big hand, I’d advise a fist bump instead.