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UNC baseball recruit Walker Jenkins driven to be the best

SOUTHPORT, N.C. (BVM) — Being the best at what you do can sometimes take its toll on one’s body and mind. That isn’t the case for Walker Jenkins, the No. 1 prep baseball player in North Carolina.

From a young age, Jenkins became infatuated with competition. And at the center of the infatuation was the friendly competition between family members. 

“Our whole family is a very competitive family,” Jenkins said. “We’re always seeing who can win. That’s just who we are.”

In addition to his family supplying him with the competitiveness many see today, the environment he has grown up in has also played an integral role in him becoming a driven athlete. 

“I always tell people I grew up in a baseball town,” Jenkins said. “We had five or six DI commits that were my age or a little bit older. And even from a young age, I was a very competitive kid. When I was 6 years old, I played up in rec ball, and I didn’t make the all-star team at the end of the season. That competitiveness in me and wanting to be the best is kind of what started that drive and love for the game. After that is when I kind of started really working at [baseball] it and really enjoyed it.”

Like any other child or young athlete, he played multiple sports. It just so happened that baseball was the sport he fell in love with. And it was one experience in particular that helped that love grow even more for the University of North Carolina recruit

“I was about 8 or 10 years old; our little rec ball team went to the World Series for Dixie Youth Baseball,” Jenkins said. “That’s a while ago; that will always stick with me because that was a bunch of the kids I grew up with, just all these homegrown boys, hometown kids going all the way to the World Series. That was some of the most fun baseball in my life.”

Walker Jenkins helped his teammates reach the state title game last season.
South Brunswick’s Walker Jenkins (right) hugs a teammate after the Cougars’ loss in Game 3 of the NCHSAA Class 3A state championship baseball series. (Credit: Joe Hughes / The Gaston Gazette / USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Lasting memories of them having fun or competing at the highest levels can undoubtedly impact how an athlete continues their career. In the case of Jenkin’s athletic career, it just speaks volumes about what an athlete can accomplish if he keeps these memories locked away and grinds every day to be the best. 

He is now one of the highly touted baseball recruits in the Class of 2023. In fact, he is the No. 1 player in North Carolina and the fifth best in the nation, according to Perfect Game. And yet, for a player like Jenkins, the rankings don’t really seem to matter to him.

“The rankings don’t mean too much to me,” Jenkins said. “I use them more for motivation. I’ll see them when they pop up on my Instagram feed or Twitter. I don’t ever really ever go looking for them. But I think it’s good to have a few people ahead of me in the country. It just makes me want to work even harder. I like being behind; having something to chase [and] something to prove.”

Jenkins has proved time and again that he’s no fluke. That rings true as he was awarded the Gatorade North Carolina Baseball Player of the Year following the 2021-22 season.

“I was in the gym at school, and my dad sent me a text saying, ‘I think you won Gatorade Player of the Year,’” Jenkins said. “Then I go and check my email, and sure enough, I got the email that I won it. I was super pumped. I honestly didn’t think I was going to win it being a junior.”

In his junior season, Jenkins batted .527 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs, according to MaxPreps. He also recorded an OPS of 1.660. Jenkins once again proved to others and himself that he was more than worthy of the award. 

“I plan on going out next year and trying to win it again,” Jenkins said. 

In the same way, Jenkins is keeping the motivation of winning another Gatorade POY; he is also keeping his sights on a state title. During his breakout junior season, the South Brunswick star helped lead his team to a state title match-up with South Rowan High School. However, the Panthers would fall short in a three-game series. 

“Those kids just battled, “Jenkins said. “It was tough. Everyone on our team played as hard as they could. They had some more lucky breaks than we did and things just went their way. But sometimes that’s just how baseball works.”

Nevertheless, heading into the final series, Jenkin’s teammates were as confident as any team in the nation.

“I think we were all pretty confident,” Jenkins said. “I genuinely think that we had the better team.”

And even today, people looking from the outside could imagine that the loss of that series could still sting. In some ways, it still does for Jenkins and his teammates. But he won’t let the result of last year affect the chemistry of this year’s ball club.

“We’re losing a lot of ‘big’ guys, but our team will still be solid,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s going to be tough for us to make it to the state championship this year, but I think a lot of guys that were on a team last year and were able to make it that far will be motivated.”

Parallel to his motivation and desire to help his school capture a state title, Jenkins is also preparing for the competition at the next level. He’s been doing that since his freshman year of high school.

“I committed fairly early,” Jenkins said. “Right after my freshman year and didn’t have the attention I do now. Carolina had always been a dream school. I built a very good relationship with coach [Scott] Forbes, who’s the head coach there now. Along with the baseball history of Carolina, the foundation there and the school. The education was another thing that sold me. Besides Duke, North Carolina is really the best educational school in the state. I tried to look at all the different aspects, and I just felt Carolina fit my needs.”

Now, it’s easy for ordinary people to judge athletes based solely on their play. But when it comes to athletes like Jenkins, their work ethic is rarely appreciated as people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. For Jenkins, that work ethic was instilled in him at a young age. 

“I think my work ethic is one thing that’s allowed me to be as successful as I am,” Jenkins said. “It definitely carries into the classroom. My family always had a rule when I was a kid. They used to say, ‘You can’t go practice baseball until you get your homework done.’ It was always one of those things when I got back from school; the first thing I did was get my homework done. To this day, that’s my first priority, and then it’s baseball…I don’t think if I didn’t have the work ethic in baseball that I did, I wouldn’t want to work or try to work as hard as I do in school.”

Jenkins is, without a doubt, one of the hardest working prospects in the nation. He rarely takes a day off.

“I can’t remember the last time I didn’t hit,” Jenkins said. “The last time, I didn’t hit or take a day off. It’s every day. I can’t name someone that works harder than me. There are people out there that work extremely hard. [And] I think about that a lot. It comforts me when I think that I outworked everyone essentially in the world today that wants to take my spot.”

Jenkins has found the perfect balance in his pursuit to be the best. And while being the best is essential to Jenkins, there is something more important to him: Growing the game and becoming a beacon of hope for younger athletes. 

“A lot of people, especially younger kids that play baseball, have started to look up to me,” Jenkins said. “It just means the world to me. To have some little kid that could possibly be in the same position as me or I could influence, that means everything to me.”

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