WHEELING - Dreams do come true. Just ask Corey Walter.
The Ohio Valley pipeline to Major League Baseball has produced again.
Walter, a right-handed pitcher and former West Virginia Class AAA all-stater at Wheeling Park, will be on a plane to Phoenix, where he will meet up with officials of the Oakland Athletics, who selected him Saturday in the 28th round (852nd pick) of the First-Year Player Draft, sometime later this week. He joins former Park shortstop J.J. Newman (Mets, 35th round, 2006) and former Wheeling Central and Wheeling Jesuit left-hander Noah Mull (Padres, 38th round, 2010) as recent local draftees.
PHOTO COURTESY WVU
Corey Walter was a star in high school at Wheeling Park, picking up numerous honors including All-Valley and All-West Virginia. His career at West Virginia University led him to be selected in the MLB?Draft by the Oakland Athletics.
''I hadn't really heard from (the A's) in a couple months,'' Walter, both a starter and reliever during his time at West Virginia University, said. ''I got a text message from them the round before and they told me they wanted to draft me, but wanted to check in and make sure I still wanted to play. I told them 'absolutely.'
''I watched the draft for a long time but I had just decided to go out running. I wasn't three minutes into (the run) and I got the text and immediately went and started watching the TV again.''
Not long after, a wait of more than a year finally ended. Walter, 21, was certain he would be drafted the previous season, but a text or a phone call never came. He said that was a tough pill to swallow but it's a situation he does not regret going through.
''I was watching it all day last year and I expected and thought I was going to go,'' he recalled. ''I was probably ranked as a higher prospect last year.
''It didn't work out, but I am never going to complain about spending another year in Morgantown. It's a great place.''
Walter doesn't have much time left there, though. He was originally supposed to fly out today on the Athletics' dime, but the trip has gotten pushed back. In the meantime, Walter has a lot to do to in preparation, specifically getting all his belongings out of a Morgantown apartment.
''I'll be getting out there and doing all the minicamp stuff and find out (what league) they place me in,'' Walter said. ''They set me up with a plane ticket to Phoenix. I guess I will be staying in a hotel.
''They said there is a possibility I could come back to the east coast and play in Vermont. They have a team there.''
Whether that will be as a reliever or a starter is anyone's guess, said Walter, who topped out at 94 miles per hour this season in a game against TCU. He and members of the Oakland organization haven't even gotten that deep into the conversation, not that it matters.
''The everyday person wouldn't think that would be that different. There is so much routine, doing stuff as a starter,'' Walter said. ''As a reliever, you have to be prepared every day.
''Who knows? Maybe I will develop that third pitch that I lacked in college and be a starter.''
A Pittsburgh Pirates fan all his life, Walter said that all changed with one text message.
''Everything has been so overwhelming with everyone calling, texting and on social media congratulating me, but it still hasn't really sunk in,'' Walter said. ''I'm sure it will sink in when I get on that plane and get out there.
''I've still been throwing, working out and staying in shape. I actually pitched the week right after my final start, at a Washington Nationals pre-draft workout.''
Walter credits the tutelage of head coach Randy Mazey and pitching coach Derek Matlock with getting him to this point, and also believes the Mountaineers' move from the Big East to the Big 12 helped improve his stock.
''Coach Matlock immediately showed effect. I went from a guy throwing 90 early in my junior year to touching 96. Without them I definitely wouldn't be where I am,'' Walter said. ''The main difference (in conferences) is, there's a major league guy on the mound every game of the weekend in the Big 12.
''I was getting able to travel to the other side of the country and get more exposure in front of people who normally wouldn't have gotten to see me pitch.''
Walter, who was part of a school-record six Mountaineers selected, finished his career with a 14-19 record. In his senior year of high school, Walter was named 2010 OVAC Player of the Year after compiling an 11-4 record with nine complete games and a 1.76 ERA, to go with a .376 batting average, 47 runs, 74 hits - 17 doubles, three homers - and 39 RBI on his way to also being named All-Valley.
Corey is the son of Roger and Charlene Walter.