BOSTON – Cam Neely still remembers the time his buddy Larry Walker invited him to Fenway Park for batting practice when Walker was visiting in his baseball career and then saved him by snagging the line drive headed straight toward the unsuspecting Bruins power forward.
“I still remember him saying that when you hear the sound, it’s already too late,” said a smiling Neely.
The Bruins president was overjoyed that his buddy from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, and former youth hockey teammate was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
“It’s a long time coming. I’ve always admired his career and thought he should have got in earlier. I’m happy for him and happy for his family,” said Neely.
"It’s a big deal being a Canadian. He’s just the second Canadian in so that’s pretty cool,” said Neely, referencing pitcher Ferguson Jenkins getting inducted into the Hall in 1991. “Growing up he was the goalie on my teams [in British Columbia]. Every other year, we’d be on the same team and I played some baseball with him. Then we went our separate ways [at] about 16 or 17 [years old].
“We always kept in touch. His older brother played goalie and played some pro hockey. They had a very sports-oriented family.”
Walker received 76.6 percent of the vote by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in his 10th and final year on the ballot, narrowly surpassing the 75 percent required. Walker was a five-time All-Star and 1997 National League MVP with the Colorado Rockies (.366, NL-leading 49 homers, 46 doubles and a career-high 130 RBI). He was a career .313 hitter in 17 seasons, including 10 with Colorado and his first five-plus with the Montreal Expos.
Walker was also a three-time NL batting champion: .363 in '98, .379 in '99 and .350 in 2001 for the Rockies.