Walker Jenkins picked up his phone during an evening flight last July to the Twins’ minor league headquarters in Fort Myers, Fla., shortly after signing for $7 million as the fifth overall pick in the draft.
He texted Twins vice president of scouting Sean Johnson and made a request.
As relayed by Twins VP for hitting and acquisitions Alex Hassan: “Sean contacted me in Florida and said, ‘(Jenkins) wants to hit when he gets there, say, around 12:30.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s great. Anything he needs.’
“It took a minute before I put it together—he meant that night. After midnight.”
Hassan drove to the complex and unlocked the players’ entrance. Shortly after Jenkins’ flight landed around 11:45 p.m., the North Carolina high school product arrived, carrying his bat bag.
Between flying to Minneapolis, having a physical and signing his contract, Jenkins hadn’t found time to hit for three days, “and he just wanted to get going,” Hassan said. “Which I respected, because when I was a player, I wanted to hit all the time, too. So I wanted to make it happen.”
The duo took cuts in a batting cage for about 45 minutes, the session ending well after 1 a.m. The 19-year-old Jenkins hasn’t stopped hitting yet.
He stroked an opposite-field double down the left-field line in his first at-bat as a professional and opened his career with a seven-game hitting streak.
When the Florida Complex League season ended, the Twins promoted Jenkins to Low-A Fort Myers, where he put up a 1.054 OPS in 12 games and covered plenty of ground in center field.
“Amazing athleticism, all five tools, every bit as advertised,” Twins farm director Drew MacPhail said. “But his work ethic and professionalism, that might be the most impressive thing about him.”
Overall, Jenkins hit .352/.417/.571 with three home runs in 26 games—but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
In his pro debut, Jenkins swung and missed at a fastball only once—“and that was 100-plus (mph) from (Paul) Skenes,” the former LSU ace who was drafted first overall by the Pirates.
“He made contact on every fastball but one—just incredible.”