Monday, May 7, 2012
Greg Walker enjoying new start in Atlanta
By Bruce Levine
Greg Walker returned to Chicago Monday for the first time since he resigned as hitting coach of the Chicago White Sox with no regrets as to how his nine-year run ended on the South side.
A happier, more relaxed Walker, in town to face the Chicago Cubs in his new role as the Atlanta Braves hitting coach, admitted his last two seasons with the White Sox were tough on everyone. Last season during an early-August heated exchange in the Sox clubhouse, general manager Kenny Williams briefly fired Walker, before chairman Jerry Reinsdorf got involved and smoothed things over.
Greg Walker is in his first season as hitting coach of the Braves.
“I shook Kenny’s hand when I left at the end,” Walker said. “I wished him well . As long as he is working for Jerry I will be pulling for him to do a good job.”
Walker then left the subject of Williams, but it is clear there is no relationship left between the two men who worked closely for nine years.
“Jerry Reinsdorf has been very special in my life and I can’t begin to tell you all the great things he has done for me and my family,” Walker said. “I have a lot of great friends in that organization, but right now I have moved on.”
The White Sox’s lost seasons of 2010 and 2011 took their toll on the 53-year-old Georgia native, who was blamed for the sputtering offense and the lack of development of young players such as Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel.
“I am human and I didn’t enjoy some of the things that were said about me,” Walker said. “When you are in a big market like Chicago there will be some negatives, but the positives far outweighed the down times.”
Walker was asked to return as the Sox hitting coach by new manager Robin Ventura after he had quit the job last fall.
“I told him that it was time for me to move on,” Walker said. “I was not the same guy over there any longer, so as much as I would have loved to work with Robin, I said no and wished him the best.”
Walker didn’t care to go into the fractured details of what went wrong for himself and the rest of the Sox coaching staff, but admitted it is fun again to come to the ballpark without the politics that existed in his last two seasons in Chicago. Ozzie Guillen, who also had some contentious battles with Williams, also left the Sox after last season.
“The positives I will always cherish from my time working there, but it did not end up good,” Walker said. “The game is hard enough to play when everyone is pulling in the same direction and it got bad over there, and it is now well documented what happened.”
The Braves have averaged nine runs over their last four games and have scored 273 runs in 2012, the second highest total in the National League. Maybe having better hitters is the key to being a successful hitting coach.
“We have a great team and they are playing well,” Walker said. “I am enjoying coaching more than I have in a long time. It’s a lot of fun again.”