“There's only one person in those cars, so you don't wear the inside out,” he said with a deep laugh. For Walton, the new never wears off.
Kevin James, baseball coach at Yukon High School, remembers when he met Walton several years ago in western Oklahoma. James was the coach at Sayre High School, which was hosting a tournament that included teams with a few pro prospects.
A thin man with a cowboy hat walked up to the coach, who happened to be near the gate. Walton introduced himself and James said, “If you're a scout, you don't need to pay.”
“Jim told me, ‘Son if Major League Baseball can't afford $5, they're in trouble,'” James said. “Jim is just a class guy and it's great to listen to him and hear his thoughts. And he hasn't aged a bit; he looks like he did the day I met him.”
Larry Turner, baseball coach at Owasso High School, said, “One of the qualities I always liked about Jim is he always made you feel important. He didn't try to big league you. He wants to talk and he's always real complimentary of our kids. He's just a good man.”
Turner said when college coaches call and ask about a player, you don't want to mislead them. So, he might get a second opinion from someone such as Walton.
“I would talk to Jim and say, ‘What do you think, off the record between us?' and he's just always been candid with me,” Turner said. “I value anything Jim has to offer.”
Walton compares what he does to stock market speculation. He looks at the present ability of a player and tries to anticipate that individual's future in the game.
“There's a lot of watching, but do we watch the right things?” Walton said. “Have they been conditioned to look for the skill areas a player must have to advance in the game? And then in the end the game will tell you where you belong, not the scout.
“The scout may identify your skills, but then you have to go play and see if you can advance through the speed levels of the game which today are A, Double A, Triple A and the big leagues.”
Each year, for decades, Walton has gone out and gotten in one Cadillac or another and driven off in search of the player with those skills.
He and wife Nancy have been married 51 years, meeting while he was a baseball player in Florida. A small sign hangs on a wall at their house, “Goodbye dear, baseball season is here.”
“She's gone through it from dragging around in the minor leagues to dragging around while I was a minor league manager and a major league coach,” he said. “We've gone through a lot of things together, but it's been good.”
Walton has heard it said many times that for those who love baseball, the child within never grows up. Recently on a cold day in Shattuck, he was asked if that's still true of him.
He quickly replied, “Oh yeah, I'd run out here and play baseball in this snow today if I could.”
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