Early commitment paying off for Walden


Justin Brown

Kinesiology and sports studies major, Jordan Walden, a freshman from Braidwood. Commited to coach Jason Anderson and Eastern as a sophomore in high school.

Maria Baldwin, Features Writer

While most recruits are still trying to perfect their athletic skills and talents when they are sophomores in high school, Eastern freshman Jordan Walden had committed to Eastern.

For Walden, the timing was perfect. He was able to get the stress out of committing out of the way, and focus on perfecting his pitches.

“The timing just seemed right,” Walden said. “I weighed all of my options and after my visit to EIU it just seemed like the right fit. I had a lot of other schools offering me during my sophomore year and even after I committed to Eastern, other schools were contacting me.”

What he did not see coming; however, was a ligament tear in his arm, causing him weeks of hard physical therapy.

“It was a lot of hard work in physical therapy, and I couldn’t throw for my whole spring season, but when I came back I had actually gained velocity and was throwing a lot harder than I was before the injury,” Walden said.

The improvements in his pitches post-injury helped him to continue to work on his technique, and even helped him lead his high school baseball team Reed Custer to a state championship his senior year.

Growing up, Walden’s dad coached him and it made a big impact on his career as a baseball player.

“My dad got me started when I was young, he always played and it got me playing to,” Walden said. “He was my coach all the way through high school. I learned a lot from him and he basically taught me everything I know about the game.”

Having a parent for a coach can be tough on some athletes, but Walden believes that it helped him to be a better athlete and pitcher in the long run.

“There was times when it was tough, it always seemed that he was a lot harder on me,” Walden said. “But now I know that it helped me so much that he was there and could critique me.”

Becoming a pitcher just made sense to Walden who said he was always a lot bigger than everyone else and was always able to throw harder than most people.

While Walden said that his biggest strength is his competitiveness on the mound, there are still more technical aspects of his game that he would like to improve on.

“I would like to work on commanding the strike zone better, and I would like to try to limit my walks the best I can by working with Coach Anderson and having him continue to tweak my mechanics,” Walden said.

In the offseason, Coach Anderson did not have Walden throwing a lot of pitches, however, but had him working to maintain his strength in the weight room.

“I did a lot of weightlifting and conditioning, just to keep up the strength in my arm.” Walden. “They have us in the weight room pretty often. Basically, to keep healthy, you have to make sure you stay flexible, and they do a good job at keep us that way.”

Sophomore Dane Toppel has noticed Walden’s motivation to be a better player, and says that it is helping the team already.

“He’s a big physical kid and he brings the type of confidence that makes the rest of the team relax and play their game.” Toppel said. “He’s always in game mode, and focused on winning everything. It’s contagious to have that attitude on the team.”

Because Walden is a freshman, he does  not know what his role will be on the team yet, but he knows that he wants to make an immediate impact on the team.

“I want to help build this program up more.” Walden said. “I don’t know my role yet, but I know that whatever I end up doing, I’m just going to contribute in any way. I’m hoping to get some mound time, but I just want to make the most of it whenever I get the opportunity and do my best to help out in any way.”

Eastern baseball will continue practicing until Feb.17, when they open up at South Alabama.

Maria Baldwin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].