Mitch Walding Pushes His Way Into Phillies' Plans
Third baseman Mitch Walding did not recognize the phone number, so he did what most people would do at 2:30 a.m. He ignored the call, rolled over and went back to sleep.
When the phone rang again—and again and again and again—showing the same number, he finally answered. Good thing, too. Gary Jones, Walding’s manager at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, was on the other end with some good news.
"You’re going to The Show,” Jones told Walding.
After passing along congratulations and encouragement, Jones said one more thing to Walding: "Let this be a lesson to always answer your phone.” The two had a good laugh and the 25-year-old Walding packed for a cross-country flight to Los Angeles, where he joined the Phillies after Pedro Florimon suffered a broken foot.
It had been a long journey to the majors for Walding, a 2011 fifth-round pick out of high school in Stockton, Calif. He shared the accomplishment with the managers, coaches and instructors who stuck with him through years of ups and downs.
"I struggled really hard for the first couple years of my career,” he said. "It was one of those things where I just took pride in my defense and was hoping that my offense would come around. I got a lot of help from a lot of great coaches through the years. They’ve taken a lot of time and helped me tremendously on both sides of the ball.”
Walding, a lefthanded hitter, gained attention when he hit 25 home runs in 351 at-bats at Double-A Reading last season. That performance impressed management enough to convince him not to become a minor league free agent following the 2017 season. He re-signed with the Phillies and received an invitation to big league camp.
"They told me they could see me in their future plans, and I thought this was the best place for me,” he said. "The Phillies are like family to me and I felt like I could help this team win at some point in the near future.”
Walding continued to impress at Triple-A this season, hitting .271/.369/.484 with seven home runs in 48 games. That’s why his phone rang—and rang and rang and rang—when the big league club had a need in late May.
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