Ready, 'Walling' and able to deliver
Change is inevitable for high school athletes.
While an athlete may not have the option of resisting the change, how he or she accepts the alteration and deals with the adjustment can make or break their respective career.
Pleasant Valley's Derrik Walling faced some changes before this past baseball season. Whereas he was an underclassman who batted lead-off for most of his career, Walling was asked to become the leader of the 2011 Bears and step up as the team's new No. 3 hitter. As he has done his whole athletic career both in baseball and football Walling answered the call.
Walling, the Mountain Valley Conference's Most Valuable Player, led Pleasant Valley in both home runs (3) and RBIs (22). He also helped the Bears get back to the MVC championship and District 11 playoffs after winning both titles in 2010.
The senior center fielder will get to add yet another accolade to his list of accomplishments, as he has been named the 2011 TIMES NEWS Baseball Player of the Year.
"It means a lot to me," said Walling on winning the award. "It is very humbling. It probably would have meant a little more to me if we would have won the MVC title, but it still does mean a lot to be recognized as one of the best players in the area."
The biggest change for Walling coming into his senior season was his role in the line-up. Head coach Karl Rentzheimer had previously used Walling at the top of the line-up due to his speed and plate discipline. Of course, at that time Rentzheimer had the luxury of having a pretty good No. 3 hitter in Pat Kregeloh.
With Kregeloh graduating last spring, the No. 3 spot in the Bears' line-up was left void. Rentzheimer made the decision before the season that it was Walling's turn to hit third. It would be his chance to have his name remembered as one of Pleasant Valley's greatest.
"Moving Derrik from lead-off to the three-hole this year was a must for the team," said Rentzheimer. "For three years he led-off and caused concern for opponents with his speed. His on-base percentage was fantastic as he was hit by a pitch at least 12 times a season and was patient in working counts and drawing walks.
"Moving to the three-hole was something we talked about in the offseason. I told him to just be himself and not think that he needed to become a power hitter. He responded very well and was tied for the team lead in RBIs. Ironically, he also led the team in homers."
The No. 3 spot in the order is usually reserved for the team's best hitter and Walling was exactly that. Along with leading the team in home runs and RBIs, Walling hit an outstanding .455 and scored 29 runs on 28 hits while striking out just four times all season.
On top of anchoring center field for the Bears' baseball team, Walling was also the quarterback on the school's football team for the last two years. Each position is rather demanding to its respective sport and put Walling at the center of attention. He wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I have been fortunate to play on a lot of good teams while at Pleasant Valley," Walling said. "From the new football coaches that came in my junior year to coach Rentzheimer I have been lucky. I have really enjoyed my four years at Pleasant Valley."
Walling will take his talents to Bridgewater College in Virginia where he will play in the outfield for the Eagles' baseball team. He should see time right away, as some of the team's outfielders have already graduated.
While Walling has left his impression on Rentzheimer and the Pleasant Valley baseball program, he will never forget all the people that made an impression on him.
"I will always remember the  district championship," said Walling. "Obviously that is something that will always stick with me. Not many high school players can say that they have won a district title.
"I will also remember all the people that I have met and all the friends that I have made. I've gotten to know (Stroudsburg's) Rob Bennie and some of the guys from Lehighton that have been on the same all-star teams. I want to thank all of those guys for just being good people."