Jake Walton and Cal Arnold grew up in houses a baseball’s throw away from each other. After years of playing the game together, whether in their yards or on a diamond, the two Union County standouts will share one more baseball experience when they travel to the North/South All Star Games in Myrtle Beach on June 16-17.
“I think it says a lot about your program when two of your players are selected to an all star game,” said Union County baseball coach Tommy Petty. “This is a great honor and privilege for these guys.”
The maximum number of athletes that can be selected from each team to participate in the All Star Games is two and for the past couple of years, two Union County baseball players have been invited to participate.
Nominations for the North/South All Star Games are collected from coaches of opposing teams and Walton said he was appreciative and a felt it was a great accomplishment.
Arnold agreed, “It feels good that other coaches think that much of you and give you that honor.”
The two said they were especially happy about having the opportunity to make the trip to Myrtle Beach together.
“We’ve played ball together since we were little,” said Walton. “It will be good to get to play one last game together.”
Both athletes talked about the closeness of the entire Jackets team this year and attributed their success to the bond they’ve formed.
“Us seniors have played together since Dixie baseball,” said Arnold. “Before you can become any team, you have to be able to rely on each other and be FOR each other. Even the best players in the world need their teammates’ support. Our team was real close.”
Walton added that he’ll never forget the 2012 Union County baseball team.
“We weren’t the most talented group that Coach Petty’s ever had, but he says that we came together better than any other,” said Walton.
However, Petty would be the first to acknowledge the talent level of these two particular players.
“Jake was probably the most feared hitter in our region,” said Petty. “And Cal earned respect early on as a catcher. Some teams tried to steal bases on him and most ended up going back to the dugout.”
Petty said that he knows coaches from opposing teams were familiar with Arnold’s arm strength and that it forced cautious base running.
“At first, I was wondering why some of these teams didn’t try to steal,” said Petty. “Then I figured it out. They don’t want to get thrown out. That is respect.”
Arnold said that Petty had a lot to do with his development on the baseball field.
“He’s put a lot of hard work into making us better as a team and a lot of work into helping me individually” said Arnold. “I’m deeply appreciative of everything he did for us and I’m going to miss it all very much.”
Walton said that along with Petty, his dad Steve deserved a lot of credit for helping mold him into the player he is.
“My dad goes to hit with me anytime I want to,” said Walton. “We have spent a lot of late nights in the cage, hitting.”
Petty said that it was typical of Walton to leave practice and spend an extra hour in the batting cages.
“This is something younger players need to do if they want to be better hitters,” said Petty. “Jake is an example that hard work pays off.”
Walton will further his baseball career at Spartanburg Methodist College this fall while Arnold will spend a year at USC Union before transferring to Clemson University, where he’s already been accepted.
But before they go their separate ways, the boys look forward to one last game.
“We’re excited to represent our team and our county,” said Arnold. “We’re just going to give it our all and show them where we’re from.”