LSU retires former Airline star Todd Walker’s jersey

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The jersey of all-America second baseman Todd Walker was retired by LSU in a ceremony Friday prior to the Tigers’ game versus Ole Miss in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.

The No. 12 worn by Walker joins the No. 36 worn by first baseman Eddy Furniss, the No. 15 worn by coach Skip Bertman and the No. 19 worn by pitcher Ben McDonald as retired jerseys in the LSU baseball program.

Walker, a former Airline star, becomes the 11th LSU athlete or coach to have his jersey retired, joining Furniss, Bertman and McDonald; men’s basketball players Bob Pettit, Pete Maravich, Rudy Macklin and Shaquille O’Neal; football players Billy Cannon and Tommy Casanova; and women’s basketball player Seimone Augustus.

Walker helped Airline reach the 1989 and 1991 Class 4A state championship games.

He was distinguished during his LSU career from 1992-94 not only for his immense talent, but also for his tremendous work ethic. He said recently that once Bertman told him that he would be the Tigers’ starting second baseman as a true freshman, he poured all of his energy into becoming one of the nation’s best players.

“Once Skip told me that, I’ve never been more motivated to do anything in my life,” Walker said.

“I wanted badly to play well. That requires a lot of sacrifice, but I wanted it bad enough that I didn’t care. I didn’t care about going to the beaches in the summer or going out with friends at night. Instead, I was hitting baseballs until four in the morning, and that’s what I loved to do. It wasn’t that I felt like I had to do that to get to the big leagues. I was just in the moment and wanting to be the best at that time.”

Walker, who was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, was the eighth overall selection in the 1994 Major League Baseball Draft. He played 12 seasons (1996-2007) in the major leagues and earned his business degree from LSU in 1998 by returning to school during the MLB off-seasons.

During his major league career, Walker played for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics. He helped lead the Red Sox to the 2003 American League Championship Series, launching five home runs during the club’s playoff run.

In recent years, Walker has served as a coach and mentor to youngsters in the Shreveport-Bossier area, and he works as a baseball analyst for the ESPN and the SEC Network.

Here is a transcript of Walker’s speech before Friday’s game taking from a video posted from SECSports.com.

“I’m humbled and extremely honored today. What do you say at something like this? All I ever wanted to do was put on an LSU jersey and for it to come to this today is just incredible for me.

“As we all know anything we accomplish in life we don’t do on our own. We need a lot of help. And I needed a lot of help. My parents, Art and Donna Walker, who took me to every practice and every game in my life and made me who I am today. I love you. Thank you.

“My wife Katie, been through it all with me. I love you. Thanks you. Riley, Jackson, Presley and Shea, it’s my turn to give you every opportunity to be successful in life as my parents did for me, whatever you want to do.

“Thank you Paul Manieri, 34 years as a head coach, man. That’s incredible. Congratulations on all your success. Thank you for your friendship. Joe Alleva, thank you for putting this together today. All the former players, Wally McMakin, Pete Bush, Michael Papajohn who set this program up to be what it is today. Thank you.

“The 1991 National Championship team that showed us all how to get it done. Lyle Mouton, Matt Chamberlain is sitting back here, Ronnie Rantz was on the team, Paul Berg, Chad Ogea, Andy Sheets, all you guys set it up for the next five. Incredible. Thanks for showing us how to get it done.

“And my teammates 1992-1994, some of them are here today. Thank you guys for all the memories. 1993 was a special year. Thank you so much. My roommates, Rick Greene, Mike Neal, Brad Wilson and Bhrett McCabe, they’re all doctors now except for me and Brad Wilson.

“My former coaches, Canevari, coach Dan Canevari, Beetle Bailey, Coach Smoke Laval — Mike Bianco, thank you man; 17 years in Oxford, all-time winningest coach in Ole Miss history — and I’m proud to call you one of my coaches. Thank you for all you taught me. I’ve always said we had a lot of great stories about you hitting one home run in Omaha and then me being able to learn how to hit a home run from Mike Bianco in Omaha. Thank you.

“And of course, the incomparable Skip Bertman. You know when I got down here as a freshman I had to drive him around on a golf cart. I just remember thinking if I roll him out of here right now I’m going to have to move to a different country. So thank you for teaching me about pressure when I first got here and then about life — you and Sandy, we love you. Thank you for all you taught me in the game and really propelled me into what I did after I left here at LSU. Thank you.

“Rick Perry, Kristen Cain, thank you for today. Thank your very much for all you’ve done for me. Thank you for your friendship. Mary Boudreaux and all the professors here at LSU really set me up in life. Thank you so much. Bill Franques up in the booth, Jim Hawthorne, thank you for making every trip here at The Box very special. Chris Guillot, Anita Heywood, the Hickses and every other fan who was her 25 years ago when I played and are still here today, that’s why you truly are the greatest fans in the world. Thank you.

“To Ben McDonald, Eddie Furniss and Skip, thank you for setting a standard for the rest of us to follow and look up to. I’m not trying to freeze you (Jared) Poche’, sorry.

“Skip used to say, for every pregame speech he used to say that you represent your family, you represent your friends — I mean your family, your school and your maker. Tonight let’s play like champions. All I ever wanted to do since I heard that until now is I wanted to make my family proud of me, my school proud of me and my maker Jesus Christ proud of me and you the fans proud of me. Thank you so much.

“And thank you to all my family and friends that came down from Shreveport to be with us here on this special day. Thank you very much. We’re all champions here in Baton Rouge. You guys have been so much fun to watch this year. Keep it rolling. You guys, too. I’ve been following both of you guys. It’s been a lot of fun. Thank you so much.”

— Bill Franques, LSU Communications Senior Associate and SECSports.com
— Feature photo LSU Baseball official Twitter account