07/19/12 — Gourley embraces role with State College Spikes

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Gourley embraces role with State College Spikes

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 19, 2012 1:50 PM

Walker Gourley understands focusing on the destination rather than enjoying the journey can often lead to a road to nowhere.

A former shortstop at Eastern Wayne, Gourley was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 13th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. In his third season with the Single-A State College (Pa.) Spikes of the New York-Penn League, Gourley has learned to appreciate the process that is minor league baseball.

Rather than getting caught up in the race to reach the Major League level, Gurley chooses to focus on improving his skills each day while doing whatever necessary to help his team win.

"As players a lot of times we get caught up in the sprint when really it's a marathon," Gourley said. "You want instant results and you have to know things take time. The way I look at it, if I see guys moving up and doing well ... I'm happy for those guys. They're obviously doing something you need to be doing and picking up those things and seeing if that works for you.

"You have to have patience to embrace the process and that doesn't come easy every day."

Adjusting to playing the outfield in order to be a mainstay in State College's lineup this season has been yet another step in Gourley's development as a player. Primarily an infielder his entire career, Gourley was willing to accept a position change if it meant more at-bats, more experience and one more way to help the Spikes be successful.

Transitioning to the outfield hasn't been as easy for Gourley as simply as switching gloves. He has had to learn to read balls off the bat and take proper routes all while attempting to gain the necessary confidence.

Gourley has committed just three errors in 26 games this season.

"I had not played outfield since Junior Legion and I played some in Little League," Gourley said. "My coaches called me in and said we've got a lot of infielders and this was one more way for me to get in the lineup and get more at-bats. I'm glad just to have the opportunity to make myself and my team better."

Offensive consistency eluded Gourley early on this season until a change in approach began to pay dividends. State College hitting coach Dave Howard noticed Gourley's success at the plate with two strikes and suggested that Gourley should use that mindset more often.

The result has been eight hits and four walks over the past 10 games. Gourley is hitting .244 this season with 12 RBI. He also had the opportunity to catch up with former Eastern Wayne teammate John Wooten when State College faced Wooten's Vermont Lake Monsters for a three-game series earlier this month.

"The biggest thing has been my hitting coach picking up on my two-strike approach and cutting down on all the big movements and just taking that two-strike approach throughout the whole at-bat," Gourley said. "I'm just trying to stay short with my swing and see the ball as long as I can."

One source of inspiration to Gourley and his teammates this season has been the success the Pirates have enjoyed at the Major League level. Doing the same daily fielding and hitting drills as Pittsburgh only reinforces that everything has a purpose.

It also helps to remind Gourley that how you get somewhere is often more important than where you are going.