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Big Man Has Big Game For Kernels

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa Adam Brett Walker has an intriguing personal background. The start to his pro baseball career has been pretty intriguing, too.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder is from Milwaukee but played college ball at Jacksonville University in Florida. His father was briefly an NFL running back with the Vikings, his mother a former national high-jump champ.

Walker led the Rookie Appalachian League in home runs last year with 14. He's got five already this Midwest League season, including a pair and seven RBIs in a 13-8 win Friday night over Great Lakes at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

This kid's got the power tool big time.

"I tell you what, Walker had my whole career in two nights, that guy," said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. "That's unbelievable."

A third-round pick of the Twins in last year's draft, Walker is an imposing 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. He began this season slowly, failing to make consistent contact, which has been the biggest knock on him.

But he's been awesome lately. He had a homer and four RBIs in a win Thursday night, and his three-run shot to left-center in the first inning extended his longball streak to three consecutive games.

"I've pretty much been trying to slow the game down," Walker said. "I was maybe trying to do a little too much before. So I've just been trying to slow it down and put the barrel on the ball. I just think thinking the other way has helped me be on time. I've started seeing the ball better, and I can take some chances more."

In the fourth inning, he wasted a Luis Meza pitch to about the same spot for a grand slam. Throw in an infield single and intentional walk, and that's quite a night.

Walker leads the MWL with five home runs and 22 RBIs. His batting average has climbed to .313.

By the way, he has gone by Adam Brett since he was a kid. People started calling him that to distinguish him from his father, Adam.

"When he stays inside the ball, he's fun to watch," Mauer said. "I think (he's got a chance). I think he's going to be able to hit a little bit ... With him being so strong, he can hit the ball almost as far to right as he can to left. He doesn't have to pull anything. When he stays on pitches like he did tonight, it's scary."

"I think my job individually is to try and drive the ball and drive in runs," Walker said. "Not necessarily try to hit home runs, but just drive the ball gap to gap and drive in runs. That's the main thing I try to focus on. I'm just trying to get good pitches and barrel them up. Usually, when I'm barrelling them up, good stuff happens."

This was the fifth win in a row for the Kernels (14-5), who finish this three-game series Saturday afternoon at 5. Byron Buxton went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, but walked three times and has reached in all 19 games this season. Cedar Rapids was the recipient of 10 more walks, a night after drawing 12. Steve Gruver got the pitching win in relief.

Jesmuel Valentin, son of former big leaguer Jose, had a single, double and triple in his first start for Great Lakes. A first-round sandwich pick of the Dodgers last year, Jesmuel was just promoted from extended spring training.

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