Chicago Cubs fans reach for a home run – Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Center Field: Jerome Walton (1989)
Jerome Walton was drafted by the Cubs in 1986 in the second round of the MLB draft. In the Minor Leagues, he would have a few very successful seasons.
Displaying a good eye for the ball at the plate and the ability to get on base – that made Walton a big prospect in the Cubs farm system.
The other tool that Walton would display that made him stand out was his speed. In his 310 games before the 1989 season – Walton would swipe 112 bags.
With a .409 on-base percentage in those 310 games – being able to get on base and move into scoring position got the attention of the Cubs’ management.
Called up in April of 1989 – Walton would hit the ground running at first. In his first nine games – the rookie would show his ability to get on base– batting .307 with two home runs and two stolen bases. He would then hit a slump that would last until the beginning of June.
In his resurgence after his near two-month slump – Walton would head into uncharted territory for most hitters.
He would compile a 30-game hitting streak that he started on July 21, and would end on August 21. During the streak – he would hit .329 with two home runs, 20 runs batted in, 46 hits and 20 runs scored.
His final line on his season–.293 with five home runs, 46 runs batted in and 24 stolen bases. He would win the NL Rookie of the Year with an overwhelming 97% votes in his favor over his teammate and fellow outfielder Dwight Smith.
The Rookie of the Year winner would also go into the postseason with the Cubs and bat .364 in the NLCS versus the San Francisco Giants. His rookie year was by far his best – only playing three more years with the Cubs.
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