No school in the country is quite like Brigham Young, which is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormon church). Students don’t have to be Mormon, but BYU requires all incoming and continuing students to receive an ecclesiastical endorsement from their religious leaders.
Earlier this week, BYU’s top offensive returning player, second baseman/outfielder Kent Walton, lost his ecclesiastical endorsement and was subsequently kicked out of BYU, and of course off the baseball team as well. Coach Vance Law, a BYU alum and former big leaguer, refused to comment on the matter, and various Salt Lake media had surmised that the reason for Walton’s dismissal was that he didn’t attend church frequently enough. Walton’s father Ken spoke out in the media that his son was being made an example of unfairly and that he had legitimate reasons for missing church services.
Today comes news that Walton has been readmitted to BYU, and the key point is, this is huge for BYU, because Walton is a player.
"I’m ecstatic about it. He’s a fine young man and we’re extremely happy to have him back," Law told the Deseret News. "It was a long, drawn-out ordeal and we’re very appreciative of all the support from the administration. He’s a good student, a kid with good grades, and the kind of guy who you want to have on your team and representing your school. It’s all behind us now, and we look forward to having a whale of a season."
Baseball America sends detailed questionnaires to all the colleges in the country that we can use for our annual College Preview, and the questionnaire includes a Best Tools survey. Walton won the Mountain West Conference voting for Fastest and Best Baserunner and received some votes for Best Hitter–last year he batted .350/.380/.587 with eight home runs and 12 stolen bases (though in 19 attempts). Law referred to him as a "major part of what we do" and listed him as the team’s top prospect for the 2008 draft.
He is supposed to move from second base to center field this year, teaming with the second baseman he replaced, Sean McNaughton, who is returning from a two-year Mormon mission and moving from second to left field. BYU’s strength is its offense, especially considering it lost senior Jesse Craig, its ace the last two seasons, as well as its top two pitching recruits in righties Cole Abbott (who signed with the Mets) and Taylor Cole (who is instead attending CC of Southern Nevada). With Walton, the Cougars might have enough offense to mash their way to a regional bid. Without him that would have been unlikely, so this reversal of field in Utah is indeed very good news.
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