It was just another game for UAB pitcher Brooks Walton last Sunday. He approached it like any other game, he insists.
Not everyone believed him, though.
"If you ask a couple of my buddies, they'd say there is no way it was just another game," Walton said.
Truth is, it wasn't just another game for the senior pitcher from Gainesville, Florida. It was the first as a Division I college pitcher that his father, Tim, was in the stands for every pitch. And Brooks made a special day even more special with his performance.
Brooks allowed two earned runs, four hits and a walk while striking out eight batters. He pitched 8.1 innings in the 5-2 Sunday win over a Notre Dame team that advanced to the College World Series last season. The next day, he was honored by Conference USA as the Pitcher of the Week.
Not a bad day for Tim Walton to be in the stands.
"My mom (Sam) gets to come to a lot of the games," Brooks said. "She makes the trips up. Knowing my dad was going to be there, I wanted to do well for him the one time he was going to be able to see me. It definitely was exciting and one of those that I was ready to go."
Tim Walton's business keeps him busy during college baseball season. Tim Walton has built the University of Florida softball program into a national power since taking over the program in 2006. Heading into this season, he was 888-201 at the school with 11 Women's College World Series appearances and national championships in 2014 and 2015.
Fortunately, his work brought him to UAB last weekend. The Gators swept a weekend series against the Blazers at Mary Bowers Field. It gave father and son a chance to see the other compete.
"I was definitely watching the scoreboard from our dugout, the days I was not pitching," Brooks said. "Then I even got to go watch a little bit with my family on Friday night and a little bit on Saturday. It was really cool."
Brooks Walton grew up at the Florida softball complex. He was seven years old when his father took the Florida job after taking Wichita State to the NCAA Regionals in his final season of a four-year stint.
"Whenever baseball or basketball was done, I'd sprint out to the field for (batting practice) or to throw in the outfield, in between games or in between innings," Brooks said. "That was really the only place where I went. I slept on their couch in their office plenty of times. It's one of the comfier spots that I know. It definitely is like a second home, I would say."
In 2014, he was in the dugout during Florida's run to the national championship. He was one of the first to hug his dad after the final out. The following season, he had to watch another national championship ending from the outfield stands.
"I guess the NCAA was not liking me in the dugout that year," Brooks said. "I got exiled out into the outfield bleachers. I had on a polo and khakis every game. I looked out of place, for sure."
Tim Walton began his athletic life in baseball, playing at junior college power Cerritos College in Southern California, the University of Oklahoma and in the Phillies organization. Before transitioning to softball, he coached college baseball, including a national championship season at Oklahoma. Brooks grew up playing baseball and basketball.
"I really liked basketball," said the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Walton, whose mother played collegiately at Oral Roberts University. "It was faster paced. Pitching is the most fun I've ever had in sport, but (basketball) was more fun to me at the time. It wasn't until this summer and fall (of senior year) that I was like, 'Ok, maybe it is where I need to put all my stock into.'"
He started his college career at Santa Fe Junior College in Gainesville, where he went 9-3 over three seasons, including a no-hitter as a freshman. Last season, his first at UAB, Walton was 6-5 with a 4.68 ERA for the Blazers.
He would love to continue pitching professionally but already has his future mapped out after his playing days are done. He's going into the family business.
"That's the plan right now," Walton said. "Either (baseball or softball). If I had to put money on it, I'd probably say I'd be coaching softball in the future."
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