Donnie Walton Lives Out A Family Dream In Debut
Donnie Walton's dream of playing in the big leagues began when he first heard about his father's MLB aspirations falling short.
So when Walton—whom the Mariners selected in the fifth round out of Oklahoma State in 2016— arrived in Seattle on Sept. 10 to prepare for his major league debut as the Mariners’ shortstop, he said he made sure to soak up as much as he could before the first pitch.
And he got to tell his dad, "We did it.”
"Probably one of the best moments of my life, to be honest,” Walton said of the moment he learned he was going to be promoted from Double-A Arkansas to finish the season with the Mariners. "I dropped to the ground and went wild.”
It’s unclear where Walton fits with the Mariners next season while they continue to see what they have in former Phillies first-round pick J.P. Crawford, who is actually a year younger than Walton (25) even though Walton was drafted three years after Crawford.
But the 5-foot-10, 184-pound Walton earned his first taste of the big leagues behind his stellar Texas League play this season, batting .300/.390/.427 with 22 doubles, 11 home runs and 50 RBI in 124 games with Arkansas. Among the Texas League leaders, Walton was tied for fourth in batting average, was second in OBP, second in hits (144) and fifth in OPS (.817).
On the first play of his big league debut, he dove to his left to corral a ground ball and threw out the runner at first.
"He’s not going to wow you with any particular tool, other than what is between his ears,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He knows how to play baseball. He grew up around it, and the IQ is really, really high.”
Walton’s father, Rob, is the pitching coach at Oklahoma State and played three seasons in the Orioles’ organization before he suffered a career-ending rotator-cuff injury.
"When he told me that when I was younger, that gave me some more adrenaline and push to make this a goal,” Donnie Walton said. "When it happened, I just told him, ‘We did it.’”
The Mariners announced their minor league awards for the 2019 season, with outfielder Jarred Kelenic earning the Ken Griffey Jr. Minor League Hitter of the Year and righthander Logan Gilbert getting the Jamie Moyer Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Others honored were 1B/3B Joe Rizzo (Alvin Davis "Mr. Mariner” Award), infielder Donnie Walton (Dan Wilson Minor League Community Service Award), while infielder Connor Hoover and right-hander Penn Murfee earned the organization’s control-the-zone awards for their respective positions (which every year have included invitations to major league spring training).