Wichita State assistant baseball coach Brian Walker understands why he is a YouTube sensation. He understands why people might wonder what in the world happened in the third inning on that 2006 day in Oxford, Miss.
Walker, playing for Arkansas, acted as if a pitch hit him and tried to sell it with great drama, although replays showed no contact. After later swinging at the third strike, he erupted.
He yelled and pointed his bat at umpire Nelson Graham, who ejected him. He slammed his helmet into the ground. He threw his bat toward the dugout. Walker continued to scream at Graham from the dugout and TV cameras caught every bit of his anger.
“For the rest of my career, it was ‘You’re that guy,’” Walker said. “I don’t think it was so much the acting like I got hit, as it was the reaction after.”
Seven years later, the clip registers more than 1.2 million hits on YouTube. Jim Rome referenced the moment on his radio show. When Derek Jeter faked his way to first base in a 2010 game, ESPN linked the two clips on “SportsCenter.” Walker admits he looks foolish, but he can laugh at the painful memory. Later that season, he apologized to Graham, an umpire with whom Walker said he enjoyed a good relationship.
“He’s an older gentleman, so he’s seen young kids over-react and lose their minds,” Walker said. “I was so fortunate to be able to get to see him again. That was something I thought was important, that I was at least able to apologize to him and let him know I felt bad.”
The story starts in the series opener, when an Arkansas player fouled the ball off his foot, then got thrown out running to first. Razorback coaches, after hearing the story, emphasized the “Ouch” play. Players need to react when a pitch grazes them or hop around when they foul a ball off their foot.
With that in mind, Walker sold it when a pitch zipped past his elbow the next day. He hopped away from home plate, grabbing his arm. Mississippi fans jeered and a trainer briefly checked him for injury.
“I think a ball hits me in the elbow, and I act like it really hurts,” Walker said. “It didn’t hurt at all, and the video evidence doesn’t show that it hit me. I sure thought it did that day. Then I proceed to strike out and lose my mind on an umpire that I really like.”
Walker uses that moment to show players how emotions can ruin a good day of baseball. He started to realize his mistake when outfielder Blake Parker, now a pitcher with the Cubs, started to put on the catching equipment.
“You don’t have a farm system of catchers, and it was a big series and it was a big point in the game, and we ended up losing (7-3),” Walker said. “It affected the team in a negative way. Your actions affect others. Sometimes, you have to learn the hard way.”
WSU coach Todd Butler was in the dugout that day. He will go over the “Ouch” play with the Shockers and use Walker’s clip to illustrate. He doesn’t want fans to judge Walker on that YouTube clip.
“He’s a fantastic person, and watching a video in the heat of a moment does not dictate how wonderful a young man is and how great of a coach he is going to be,” Butler said.