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Former Kettleer Head Coach Now in the Spotlight at Wake Forest

By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)

Head Coach of the Wake Forest baseball team Tom Walter has ties to the Kettleers, manning the same role in Cotuit for two seasons in 1997 and 1998.

After sweeping the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Super Regionals, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA DI baseball tournament will make a long-awaited return to the College World Series for the first time since 1955.

Sporting a 52-10 overall record and a perfect 5-0 mark in the postseason, Wake Forest is rolling into Omaha. The Demon Deacons are led by a dominant pitching staff including ace Rhett Lowder and southpaw Josh Hartle, both selected as First-Team All-Americans by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). On the offensive side, Brock Wilken and Nick Kurtz take charge as both players posted an OPS above 1.300 this college season.

It appears Walter has always had an eye for talent, including his time in Cotuit 25 years ago.

“He worked hard putting a team together throughout the year. This is a year-round thing, as a lot of people don’t know, you don’t just pick the team in February,” said Kettleers general manager Bruce Murphy, who hired Walter. “So it was a two-year commitment with his contacts in the baseball world and everything. So that was very good work, and it was very pleasant working with him.”

Although the 1997 and 1998 teams didn’t have too much success in the standings, there were plenty of notable individual performances.

In ’97, Chris Aronson won The Russ Ford Outstanding Relief Pitcher Award and John Scheschuk won the All-Star Home Run Hitting Contest. The next season, Todd Donovan was awarded the All-Star Game MVP and Jeff Heaverlo won The BFC Whitehouse Outstanding Pitcher Award.

Along with those awards, plenty of major league talent wore the Cotuit uniform during Walter’s time. Garrett Atkins began his CCBL Hall of Fame career with the Kettleers in 1998, and other future players that made it to the show include Chris Capuano, Eric Bruntlett, and Aaron Harang.

But the lasting effect on Walter’s leadership has been his selflessness.

Early in his tenure with Wake Forest, freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan arrived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina after developing a medical condition that severely affected his kidneys. By January 2011, Jordan would need a transplant but struggled to find a match.

Walter tested to see if he could answer the prayer of the Jordan family, and it turned out he was the right fit. The surgery was successful for both men, which allowed Jordan to live out his childhood dream of playing college baseball.

That story is just one of many examples of Walter being a stand-up man.

“I remember him, besides being a good coach, being a good person who cared for the players and cared for the community also,” said Murphy.

Wake Forest’s first game in the College World Series will come against Stanford on Saturday at 2 p.m., airing live on ESPN.


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