July 17, 2003 at 2:22 p.m.
“It’s been a challenge this summer, even dating back to school ball this spring,” remarked Walker. “You have to keep the spirits up, try to keep the positives and point them out for the next game.
Yes, this season, the Vikings are taking it one game at a time. That tends to happen when the roster is packed with more freshman and sophomores than juniors and seniors.
“This whole season has been new to me,” said Walker. “My first year, I had almost nine senior starters and then last year we had a lot of seniors as well. You can’t put a price tag on that type of leadership.”
Dating back to this spring, equipped with just four seniors, the new look Vikings stumbled out of the gates. North Branch finished the 2003 varsity season with two wins, both coming during the first week of May. Still, with each game, the product on the field was getting better, even though the final score didn’t reflect it.
That type of pattern has followed the Vikings into this summer’s American Legion schedule. After dropping their first five games, North Branch won three of their next four games before losing their next five. Add two wins last week and most agree, they might be the best five win team in the state.
“We’re still making mistakes but the good thing is that they are new mistakes,” commented Walker. “Now we have about four or five freshman who are in the mix this summer. They are still making the mistakes but not the same ones. We’re getting better every game and that’s what’s important.”
That scares some of the teams from around the Rum River Conference. If they are improving every game with freshman and sophomores now, how good can they be in the future? Most agree the answer is good, especially with Walker at the helm.
“You start with Troy Walker,” said Pat Collins, Chisago Lakes varsity baseball head coach. “I think Troy is a very good coach who understands baseball. With him leading the charge with such a young team, the future is definitely looking up.”
“I don’t know a whole lot about the players because I wasn’t around this spring but I know they have the right guy there to build with,” remarked Trent Grams, Chisago Lakes American Legion head coach and college teammate of Walker. “He’s going to do the right thing to make the program one of better teams in the conference in the future. He knows the game and he’s a great coach. It definitely starts with him.”
Although Walker dismisses the praise, he also believes that the best is yet to come.
“The key is patience. We have to stay upbeat and positive,” said Walker. “It’s hard to stay upbeat when your losing this much but I think everyone needs to realize that the best is yet to come. North Branch is a growing area. The goal is to keep the numbers up. If you can consistently see 15 to 16 kids coming through every summer, especially in Legion ball, we’ll be in good shape.”