Besides the typical changes from college ball to the pros faced by many players, Elizabethton's Adam Walker
has the additional challenge of fitting into an outfield with a distinctly international flavor.
The Wisconsin native, who signed quickly after the Minnesota Twins made him a third-round choice out of Jacksonville University in June's Draft, said he was ready for whatever was in front of him when the Appalachian League season got under way last week.
"It wasn't too tough. I was ready to start my career in pro ball," Walker said of the decision to leave college after his junior year. "It's nice to get started and get the at-bats. It's nice to be able to sign and get out here."
So Walker will try to settle in and stand out at the same time. He's pegged primarily as a corner outfielder, looking the part with a 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame.
The Elizabethton outfield might be the definition of a baseball melting pot. There's Romy Jimenez from the Dominican Republic, Max Kepler from Germany and Rory Rhodes from Australia.
That might create some diverse outfield chatter during a pitching change.
"It's cool to meet people from different parts of the world," Walker said. "It's definitely interesting, learning where everyone was from, and it was 'wow.'"
It's the "wow" factor that Walker might eventually provide with his bat. He said consistency must be one of his priorities at the plate. He hit his first professional home run Tuesday in his seventh game.
"Just plate discipline and being more consistent out there," said Walker, who won't turn 21 until after the season. "It will help me get more consistent every day."
Walker said he was always one of the bigger players on youth teams growing up in Wisconsin. Then he arrived at college and filled out.
"Obviously, you look at him, he has the prototypical body [and] moves well," Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said. "I think his makeup is good. I know [the organization] thinks a lot of him."
Walker, who played in the 2011 NCAA Regionals, toyed with some time as a first baseman at Jacksonville, but he was primarily stationed in the outfield.
Now it's about refining his skills.
"I think I have what it takes -- just sharpen up everything," Walker said.
Elizabethton's players had plenty of bonding time as the Twins began the season with a six-game road trip. That should have provided time for players and staff to discover their teammates' backgrounds.
Smith said the Minnesota organization has been willing to tap the less traditional baseball areas in its scouting. In this case, Elizabethton is directly experiencing the impact of that.
"The game is so international now," Smith said. "It's almost become commonplace. [International players] haven't had the experience a lot of our guys have had, but they have the wide-eyed enthusiasm."
Rhodes, in his second go-around in the league, hasn't missed a beat, starting the season with five consecutive multi-hit outings. He batted a league-leading .485 (16-for-33) through the first eight games of the season.
Walk this way: Bluefield first baseman Art Charles drew a league-leading 11 walks over the first nine games. The 21-year-old California native, a 2011 Appy League All-Star, is 7-for-22 with five extra-base hits.
One at a time: Kansas City's 2011 fifth-round pick, Patrick Leonard, homered in his pro debut with the Burlington Royals. "I was thinking I wanted to get my first hit," Leonard said of the homer at Pulaski. "I hit it good, but I didn't know it was going to [clear the fence]. I was running hard to first base." The third baseman had a league-best four homers across the first six games, all solo shots.
On the mark: Princeton Rays left-hander Blake Snell notched 13 strikeouts over his first 8 2/3 innings and did not allow a run during that span. He went 3 2/3 innings in his second outing without yielding a hit or walk.
Right spot, right time: Greeneville Astros right-hander Jordan Jankowski has picked up a win in his first three appearances out of the bullpen. He's a first-year pro out of Division II Catawba College in North Carolina after transferring from Miami of Ohio.