Entering this season, Adam Walker developed a reputation as a power hitter in his short time as a professional ballplayer.
After he was taken by the Twins in the third round of the 2012 Draft, he shared the Appalachian League lead with 15 homers for Rookie-level Elizabethton. He hit three more in the postseason, none more important than a game-tying three-run blast in the bottom of the ninth inning of the decisive Game 3 of the Championship Series against Burlington, a contest the Twins won on Dalton Hicks' walk-off grand slam.
But the power -- indeed anything involving the bat -- was noticeably absent at the start of the 2013 campaign with Class A Cedar Rapids. After a particularly difficult 0-for-3, three-strikeout performance in the second game of a doubleheader against Clinton, his average sat at .136 (3-for-22) with one extra-base hit through six games.
"It was a little frustrating," Walker said of his first taste of full-season ball. "But I just tried to keep on working. I think I came into the season a little too juiced up, trying to pull a little bit, do too much and get off to a good start. Since then, I've been focusing more on using the big part of the field and letting the ball get deeper, so I can get a better eye on it."
The strategy seems to be working wonders.
Walker tied a career high with two homers and set another with seven RBIs on Friday night, leading the offensive charge in the Kernels' 13-8 victory over the visiting Great Lakes Loons.
The 21-year-old slugger has gone deep in three straight games, totaling 13 RBIs during that stretch.
"I'm feeling really good at the plate right now," he said. "Everything I've been working on is starting to come together after that slow start and I think it's because I've tried slowing everything down just a little bit. I've been laying off the bad pitches more and more and taking my swings at the real hitter's pitches."
Walker opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning by taking a 1-0 fastball away from Loons starter Zachary Bird deep to left-center for a three-run homer. He was intentionally walked to load the bases in the third and came up in a similar situation an inning later when Dalton Hicks got an intentional pass. Given a chance to swing once more, Walker connected again on another 1-0 fastball to left-center for a grand slam that put Cedar Rapids ahead, 10-4.
As impressive as the homers were, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Wisconsin native thought their landing spots were reasons for optimism.
"It's my first full season, so I wanted to come out, do some damage and show I could hit for power," said the Jacksonville University product, who also singled in the seventh on a 3-for-4 night. "But even then, I needed to show myself I can hit the ball up to center. When I'm hitting the ball up the middle and trying to do that, it just opens up a lot more in my game and keeps me from trying to do too much out there."
After Friday's big night, Walker leads the Midwest League with five homers and 22 RBIs and ranks fourth with a .612 slugging percentage through 18 games. His batting average, which stood at .136 only 12 games earlier, is up to .313.
Given the way the season already has ebbed and flowed, Walker knows he can't sit on the laurels of this hot streak if he wants to find success for any extended period of time.
"There so many games here, it's obviously a little different than football," he said. "In football, you play every week, but you're only coming out once a week -- Friday, Saturday or Sunday, whenever's on the schedule. Baseball, you come out every day and then you come out the next day, too. So if you have a bad game, you have to put it behind. If you have a good day, you have to feed off that and do what you can to keep it coming.
"It's a full season. You have to stay positive and keep working through everything."
J.D. Williams also homered and Jorge Polanco went 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored for Cedar Rapids.