Oral Roberts is a special place for Rob Walton.
Spanning 15 baseball seasons, nine as head coach, Walton helped construct and sustain a powerhouse out of a Summit League afterthought.
With a career 367-167 record, Walton won the conference every year, never missing an NCAA Tournament. And with the talent ORU continually assembled, Walton's extended streak wasn't in immediate jeopardy.
“You talk about family and togetherness and cohesiveness, I spent nearly a quarter of my life there,” Walton said. “We had a great team coming back, great kids coming back.”
Not many places could have pried Walton away from his baseball paradise. In fact, if you ask the coach, the list is a line deep.
“One place,” Walton said. “ Oklahoma State's the only place (I would have left it for).”
So when the Cowboys came calling last week, with new head coach Josh Holliday and athletic director Mike Holder making intentions clear, Walton made a quick decision.
They met on Sunday. By midday Monday, Walton was named the next Oklahoma State pitching coach.
“They wanted me on board,” Walton said. “I came over and visited, and I thought they had a good game plan and a great opportunity.”
The runner-up behind Holliday for OSU's head coaching gig, Walton was thought by many to be the immediate favorite when eight-year coach Frank Anderson was fired last month.
But Holder went with Holliday, who quickly won over the faithful with a spirited introductory speech.
There was slight disappointment, but Walton quickly dispelled any kind of resentment. He happily became Holliday's first and most important hire, capping the back end of a high-profile pairing that has generated buzz for a tradition-rich program that had been lacking hype.
“Getting Rob Walton to come here and be part of our program was really tremendous for everybody involved,” Holliday said. “His talents and passion for Oklahoma State, his experience in the game, his true genuine nature, will enhance everybody he is around. His willingness to come here displayed a lack of ego that we are about. Tremendous for our program, tremendous for our players and tremendous for me.”
For Walton, it was a long-overdue homecoming.
As a four-year starter at OSU, Walton was 20-3 with a 3.74 ERA, pitching for Tom and Dave Holliday, Josh's father and uncle.
“It was just a really unique opportunity to reconnect with a friend and a baseball person that I share a lot of common history with,” Josh Holliday said. “And we share something bigger than that, and that's a love for Oklahoma State baseball.”
A love that finally brought Walton back to Stillwater, a place he says he would like to end his storied career.
And for a final task, the pitching guru and recruiting expert is aiming to bring his alma mater back to national prominence.
“I think you need people who truly care about Oklahoma State University and the tradition of Oklahoma State baseball,” Walton said. “We invested part of our lives there as players and students, so I think it becomes a natural fit for us.”