Walker McCleney continues family tradition in his own way


Stephen Alvarez

Walker McCleney is hitting .243 through 25 games this season.

Cody Estremera

The McCleney name is easily recognizable in the state of Alabama, especially in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. 

John McCleney played center field for Samford’s baseball team in the late 1980’s and early 90’s and Haylie McCleney was one of the best softball players to ever play at Alabama, finishing as a four-time All-American with the highest batting average, on-base percentage and most walks in program history, while finishing in the top five in several other categories. 

Both players played center field, just as Walker McCleney does for the Alabama baseball team. 

“In the family, we really don’t talk about what we’ve done as an individual,” McCleney said. “We always talk about being part of a team, just something bigger than ourselves. Of course, Haylie was a four-time All-American here, and it’s kind of big shoes to fill. But she’s really good about it, and she’s proud of me and happy that I’m chasing my dreams.”

The big difference between the McCleneys is the number. Eight was the number that Haylie wore all four years while at Alabama, and the number John McCleney wore while he was at Samford. 

Walker wears No. 13, even though he wore eight in high school. The simple reason is the number was taken by the time he was part of the team. The number was free this year, but he decided to stay with 13. 

“I wanted to kind of steer away from 13 so I could make my own name and footprint on this university,” McCleney said. 

The sophomore from Morris, Alabama wasn’t as highly recruited as his sister, but when former coach Mitch Gaspard offered him a preferred walk-on to Alabama he jumped at it. 

“Growing up I was a huge Alabama fan,” McCleney said. “When Coach Gaspard gave me the opportunity to be a preferred walk-on here, I was going to take it and I was going to run with it.”

Growing up for the McCleneys was different than most kids. Instead of sitting around the house watching cartoons or playing with action figures, McCleney watched ESPN and played ball. There is a video on YouTube that shows all three McCleney children practicing diving on trampolines, working on the right way to dive after a fly ball. 

“Dad would get us a trampoline,” McCleney said. “He would just throw us balls and we’d have our glove. That’s just what we did.”

McCleney and Alabama hosts UAB on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The last time the two played was in Birmingham, Alabama when UAB won 6-5. 

“We need to win a midweek game,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “We’ve lost three in a row, so I’m excited for tomorrow night. They are a well-coached team. We had a very competitive game against them a couple weeks ago.”

Alabama was in a five-game stretch where it allowed a run in the first inning during the first matchup. This continued for the Crimson Tide when the Blazers scored five runs in the first inning. 

“Baseball is such a cyclical game, both individually and as a team,” Bohannon said. “You go through spells where you swear hitting is contagious, and you go through spells where the other team just seems to find a hole, no matter how good of a pitch you make.”

Sam Gardner starts for Alabama. He took the loss in Alabama’s 4-0 loss to Jacksonville State in his last outing.