After an early-season practice, Walter surprised his team when he told his Demon Deacons that he was going to donate a kidney to freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan. A week later, Walter underwent surgery to remove his kidney, which was transplanted to Jordan.
Today, CollegeBaseballInsider.com introduces the Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award by honoring the Wake Forest coach as its first recipient. The award will recognize examples of inspiration in college baseball.
“There are countless inspirational stories in college baseball each year, but no gesture in our 10 seasons of coverage captivated us as much as what Tom Walter did for Kevin Jordan,” said Sean Ryan, co-founder of CollegeBaseballInsider.com. “We think this is the perfect way to honor college baseball players and coaches who inspire us off the baseball diamond.”
A 1991 graduate of Georgetown, Walter just completed his second season at WFU and his 15th as a Division I head coach. He spent five seasons at New Orleans after leading George Washington for eight years. His career mark is 469-396, averaging more than 31 wins per season.
“This is a tremendous honor for me,” Walter said. “The guys at CBI are first-class ambassadors for college baseball and to be recognized by them means a great deal to me personally. Each and every year there are several incredible acts of heroism, courage and generosity. This award will provide a national platform to honor those amazing individuals who are responsible.”
Joining Walter this year are Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor and Arizona State outfielder Cory Hahn, both of whom were paralyzed during games this season, and Bayler Teal, a 7-year-old boy whose battle with cancer inspired 2010 and 2011 national champion South Carolina.
Taylor was injured attempting to make a diving catch on March 6. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers – former Kennesaw State assistant Ryan Coe pitched the idea to the Rangers’ front office – and plans on returning to Georgia to finish his degree and continue his rehabilitation.
Hahn suffered his injury while stealing second base on Feb. 20 and as he lay motionless on the bag reportedly told his coaches, “Damn right, I’m safe.” His father Dale quit his job to take Cory to physical therapy several days a week.
“Johnathan Taylor and Cory Hahn were special players on the field, and they continue to inspire us in how they’ve dealt with their injuries,” said Phil Stanton, co-founder of CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
Teal was diagnosed with a form of cancer in 2008 and the Gamecocks adopted his family for Christmas that year. As his health deteriorated in 2010, South Carolina vowed to play for Teal, who lost his fight about the same time the Gamecocks were rallying against Oklahoma in the College World Series. His memory inspired South Carolina again in 2011, when the Gamecocks won their second national title in as many years.
“The touching story of the Gamecocks befriending the Teal family and playing in honor of Bayler is one that will be with us for a long time,” Stanton said.
The Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award will be given annually by CollegeBaseballInsider.com to Division I coaches, assistants, student-athletes and anyone else who inspires with their off-the-field impact and accomplishments.