As recently as Tuesday afternoon, as he headed home from Senior Week in Ocean City, N.J., to prepare for baseball's first-year player draft, Christian "Ya-Ya" Walker sounded excited.
He had long owned a national profile, one that had experienced off-the-charts mushrooming back in January, thanks to his winning, bombs-to-everywhere performance in a home-run derby at Tampa's Tropicana Field.
Walker, a 6-1, 210-pound third baseman (and occasional catcher) from Kennedy-Kenrick High in Norristown, was hearing he could be selected anywhere from the second to sixth round.
As much as he wanted to believe that . . .
"The whole thing is a crapshoot," he said then. "You never know. You can't 'expect' anything. I'm anxious. I just want to see what's going to happen."
Thank goodness he didn't hold his breath.
The draft commenced Tuesday night (three rounds), then dragged through Wednesday (to 30) and yesterday (to 50). After almost going unpicked, Walker was tabbed by the Dodgers in the 49th round.
Forty-ninth?! Why so late?
Scott Walker, Christian's father, sounding frazzled but at the same time looking ahead with hope, detailed his family's wild ride early last evening.
How the family, in concert with adviser Mike Martini, had informed teams before the draft that $750,000 would be required to keep Walker from honoring his commitment to the University of South Carolina.
How Red Sox scout Chris Calciano, a Philly native and former star at Robert Lamberton High, called Tuesday to say his team would take Walker in the fourth round if agreement could be reached on a $500,000 bonus.
How the family came down to $650,000, and the Bosox declined to move up.
"You know how it goes," Scott Walker said. "Baseball people talk. When it's through the 20th round and Christian's still not drafted, it was obvious the word got around that our number was $650,000."
Scott Walker said Calciano again made contact yesterday and repeated his half-million offer.
"We said we'd go with that," Walker said. "I called Christian - he's back down the shore - and he was excited. The idea of just forgetting the draft stuff and going to South Carolina was growing on him. But at the same time, pro ball was what he wanted all these years. What he worked for.
"They were up to maybe the 45th round now. We thought it was going to happen . . . Then we get the word. Dodgers. Forty-ninth round. I'm not sure why the Red Sox didn't follow through. I don't want to say anything bad about them. I just don't know. It didn't happen."
Attempts to reach Calciano were unsuccessful.
Christian Walker's skills were scrutinized by every team. He subjected himself to extra workouts for the Dodgers, White Sox, Royals, Yankees, Red Sox and, yes, your Phillies. To meet the Dodgers' request, he even traveled to Atlanta to perform with schoolboy and college prospects from around the East Coast.
Scott Walker said the Dodgers told him they are not prepared to offer $500,000, but will follow him over the summer. The deadine to sign is Aug. 15.
"I'm sure Christian and his family are disheartened," said K-K coach Tom Sergio, who played minor league ball and advanced to Triple A. "It's a rough situation. You could argue both ways."
"There's a little bit of heartache for us," Scott Walker said. "This was difficult. [Wife] Julie and I are looking back. Did we pass up a great opportunity? We set a number that we felt was fair, considering Christian's talents and that he's signed with a great SEC program. Then we came down because we felt that made the most sense. The economy's crazy. Who knows how much everyone's going to get?
"Christian is confident this is going to work out. In fact, he assures me he'll be able to double his bonus amount in 3 years."
Chism was 1-3 with a 7.80 ERA in 10 games (seven starts), but he made the All-Big 5 team this year at first base with a .310 batting average, 11 home runs and 50 RBI. Chism is from Sun Valley High. *