Up Close and Personal with our Walk to Cure Arthritis National Adult Honoree Tom Walker
As a believer in living a full life and being a Champion of Yes, we asked Tom Walker – who has experienced highs and lows and endured it all – a few lighthearted, personal questions.
- When did you realize you wanted to play baseball professionally?
Growing up in Florida, there were several great baseball players. I was around baseball a lot and loved it. I couldn’t think of doing anything else. I thought if things went well, maybe I could play in the big leagues, which I did in 1972 when I joined the Montreal Expos.
- Do you think your willpower to play baseball has given you the skills to help you manage your arthritis with a positive and strong outlook?
There’s no question about that. When you play MLB, it is very difficult. I had to continually work on my skills. I took the approach of staying in the middle of the road – not getting too excited when things get too hard or too bad. I don’t let OA control or conquer me; I’ve made it part of my life – it’s just a challenge for me. Kids with juvenile arthritis get my attention.
- How do you live "mind over matter" with your arthritis?
You have to think about people who have something else worse than you. You must put other things in front of your arthritis and go about your day. I try not to think about it – there’s no doubt about it being there. I do think about it [the pain] when my grandchildren come over and want to play sports – and I can’t play the way I want to; it’s about impossible. Then you think, “What if I didn’t have this?” Or “Should I get that shoulder replacement surgery so I can play with them?”
- What was your most memorable baseball game and why?
A minor league game on August 4, 1971. The Baltimore Orioles (my team) played the Albuquerque Isotopes and I pitched a 15-inning, no-hitter game! That had never been done before and hasn’t been achieved since – and most importantly, caught the attention of the MLB and helped me get traded to the big leagues.
- Who’s been the biggest influence on your life and why?
My dad. He was such a hard worker and never complained. There was no challenge he couldn’t take on and conquer – even if it took him a while. While a simple man, he had a remarkable work ethic, which greatly influenced me. I couldn’t have achieved this level of success without having him as my guide.
- Favorite book or author?
Easy – "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz. Written in 1960, it’s been a go-to book for me. The night I had the 15-inning, no-hitter game, I read the chapter about “conquering hard things,” which helps you visualize challenging things – like a small golf hole being big and attainable.
- Favorite music?
Motown! I can go on, but artists like the Temptations and songs like “My Girl” influenced me as a teen and are still played today. All generations can relate to it in some way, even if just at a wedding.
- Favorite food?
Seafood – I love king crab; it’s an easy one to like. We have it for special occasions. The last time we cooked king crab, we invited all of our children and grandchildren over for our annual “spring training kickoff dinner.”
- What do you collect and why?
Memorabilia from the 1970s during my baseball era, especially things that relate to my late friend Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates player. Sadly, Roberto died in an airplane crash. He was traveling to Nicaragua to help people who had suffered from an earthquake in 1972. I asked to go with him to help, but he said there wasn’t enough room left in the five-seater plane, filled with items to help the afflicted Nicaraguans. Two hours after taking off, I heard he passed away in a plane crash. Roberto brings me a lot of sad memories, but also thoughts of having a servant’s heart.
- What advice would you give people with osteoarthritis (OA)?
Depending on how severe their OA is, they need to see a rheumatologist and/or orthopedic surgeon.More so, don’t let it control you. You must exercise, drink fluids and put it out of your mind. Doing these things, such as walking or riding a bike, will help a person tremendously. Stay in motion – and for me, prayer and a glass of red wine with good company always help me keep things light and in perspective.