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Walker close to dad on Father's Day

Walker close to dad on Father's Day

SAN FRANCISCO -- Back in the windy, cold-beyond-comfort days of Candlestick Park, Tyler Walker remembers sitting in the stands on special occasions with his dad, Ralph, watching, cheering -- sometimes freezing -- and keeping score at Giants games.

Because Tyler was always busy with school or summer league baseball, and Ralph was a long hours-working, often traveling attorney, going to games was only possible on birthdays or other celebrations. Tyler would have loved to get to the park more often, but, because the trips were so rare, they tended to be that much more special.

Now, after four years as a Giants reliever, the luster of going to the ballpark has worn off. The bond between father and son, though, hasn't changed a bit. Ralph is a season-ticket holder -- has been for years -- and he almost never misses a game. In 2005, Tyler said, Ralph made it to 79 of San Francisco's 81 home appearances.

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He wouldn't want to miss one of his son's games now, just like he never missed them when Tyler was a kid. Ralph was Tyler's Little League coach until he was 10, always teaching the nuances of the game and offering tips. Ralph didn't play baseball beyond high school, but, Tyler said, he knows the sport as well as anyone.

"He's a rabid fan and he's always been able to help me with my pitching," Walker said. "He'd always be teaching me stuff when we were at the ballpark together. He made sure to teach me a lot of the little things."

Now, as Father's Day arrives, Walker wants to give special thanks to his dad for all of those lessons. He wants to thank him for getting to his games, helping him focus on his education and being there for the big moments in his career.

Like making a cross-country trip to see Walker in his first Major League action. Or, at least trying to. Walker made his first appearance on July 2, 2002, for the Mets -- the team that drafted him in 1997 -- against the Phillies -- a one-inning, two-run effort. Ralph missed that start, but made it to Walker's next series in Florida. Of course, Walker didn't play against the Marlins and was optioned back to the Minors on July 5.

But Ralph was there a month later for Walker's first -- and only -- Major League start in Philadelphia on Sept. 7. He's got the lineup card and a game-used baseball to prove it. And Ralph was at Comerica Park on June 17, 2005, when Walker made history against Detroit. He entered in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out and proceeded to save the game by striking out all three hitters he faced -- no other Major League player has accomplished that feat.

"He's been there for a lot of that stuff," Walker said. "I remember after my start in Philadelphia we were on cloud nine. It was one of those times where you think about all of the practicing and work that you've gone through; it was a pretty cathartic moment."

Fortunately for him, Walker's been able to share most of his fondest memories with his dad. He spent five years on the East Coast in the Mets organization, but otherwise has been near his family in the Bay Area for most of his life.

A University High School (San Francisco) alumnus, Walker went to school at the University of California-Berkeley, and has been with the Giants since 2004, excluding a brief stint in Tampa Bay in 2006. Walker said his time away from home as a Met helped strengthen his bond with his dad.

"When I was back east, that was my first time really being away from San Francisco," Walker said. "That gave me an appreciation of what this area has to offer: being home and being near my family."

David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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