Joey Walsh is living the good life.
His day starts each morning in a nice apartment in Rancho Cucamonga, CA that he shares with three business associates.
The mornings are essentially his own to do as he chooses, and he usually heads down the road to beautiful San Bernadino to get to his office about 1:30 pm each day. When he gets there, Walsh will work out, do some stretching, go through his arm work, and get something to eat. Sometime around 7 pm the lights get bright and it’s time to go to work.
Walsh’s office is San Manual Stadium, the home of the Single A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, the Inland Empire 66ers. Said Walsh, life as a professional baseball player is indeed all it is cracked up to be.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve got an awesome life. My work every day is to go play baseball,” Walsh said. “How could it be better? I’m a professional baseball player. I get paid to do what I love every day.”
The 24-year-old Plymouth North and Boston College graduate is turning out to be a very good baseball player. He also put in some time pitching with the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League in 2018 and waited patiently for the right opportunity to make that final jump.
That opportunity came last June. He wasn’t taken in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, but the phone rang shortly after the draft ended. On the other end of the line was an area scout from the Los Angeles Angels, Drew Dominguez, who had an offer that Walsh had been waiting his entire life to hear.
“It still doesn’t feel real, but it’s getting to that point very quickly,” Walsh joked last year. “It still feels weird to say that I’m going to be a professional baseball player, but I’m going to soak up every single second of it. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I know that I’m being given an incredible opportunity by Los Angeles and I’m not going to waste it.”
He finished up a short season last summer with the Angels with a 1-0 record in eight games and came back in 2022 ready for more.
One big change came earlier this season when injuries to other members of the Inland Empire pitching staff opened up a chance for Walsh to transition from a reliever to a starter. Walsh had been a reliever for the most part since having Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow that ended his senior season back in high school.
“They pulled two bullpen arms up to be starters (because of the injuries) and I happened to be one of them. If it’s going to help us win. I’m all for it,” the 6-1, 224 lbs. left-hander said.
Opportunity knocked and Walsh responded like a champ with a 3-3 record and one save in 26 appearances this summer, seven of them starts. He’s also averaging better than a strikeout per inning.
Everything came together for Walsh on July 27 when he pitched seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball in a win over the Visalia Rawhide. Adding in his prior start, he’d pitched 12.1 innings of scoreless baseball. Walsh was named the California League’s Pitcher of the Week for his outing against Visalia when he allowed just the one hit, walked 3 and struck out 4.
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Walsh was back on the mound Wednesday night, leading the 66ers to a win over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
“That’s the way it works right now. I know I’m going to get the baseball as a starter every Wednesday game,” Walsh said.
And when he takes the mound, Walsh brings a brand-new toy with him.
“A couple weeks ago my pitching coach (Bo Martino) asked me if I wanted to try a new grip on my slider. You tried it. And I love it,” Walsh said, saying the key to the pitch is the pressure of his grip on the baseball. “It worked for me right away and I already have a huge amount of confidence in my slider.”
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Walsh also features a fastball that goes between 90-92, as well as a change-up. One surprise he’s found this season is how everyone on the team supports one another as they work towards the common goal of winning baseball games. As of Thursday morning, the 66ers were leading the California League’s South Division with a record of 19-13.
“I thought that everyone would be here just trying to get better and doing their own thing. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Walsh said. “I’m part of a real team where everyone is pulling for one another.”
Walsh was able to scoot back to Plymouth over the All-Star break last month. “I wanted to see friends and family, have a beach day, and eat some good seafood again. All goals were accomplished,” he reported.
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And don’t think being a pro baseball player has gone to his head. Asked if he was going by Joe or Joey now, he quickly responded “Joey. I will always be Joey.”
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