John McCleney once wore No. 8 as a college baseball player. His daughter, Haylie McCleney, wore No. 8 for four years as an All-American softball player at Alabama.
Walker McCleney arrived at Alabama last year and found that jersey No. 8 was already taken. Senior catcher Tanner DeVinny wore it in 2017.
The McCleneys’ signature jersey wasn’t occupied this year, but McCleney is still wearing No. 13.
“I wore eight in high school and then I wanted eight this year, but I think they gave it away because (Mitch) Gaspard had it,” Walker McCleney said. “I couldn’t get it. I kind of wanted to steer away from eight because I wanted to make my own name, make my own footprint on this university.”
The walk-on centerfielder has had a bigger opportunity to do that this year. He’s started 12 of Alabama’s 29 games and is batting .250 with a .449 on-base percentage. Alabama entered the season with five full-time outfielders, and a season-ending injury to Gene Wood has left the Crimson Tide with just four players there.
It’s just midway through the season, but McCleney is approaching his total at-bats posted during the 2017 season. He started two games over the weekend against Kentucky and was 0-2 with three walks.
“I’m just glad for the opportunity to play here and I just make the most of it,” McCleney said. “I’m excited, blessed to be here where I am today and just keep moving forward, keep working.”
That means preparing for a midweek game against Jacksonville State on Tuesday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, then a road trip to Missouri this weekend. Alabama had an 11-game win streak against Jacksonville State snapped last year when the Gamecocks won both midweek games. Jacksonville State won 2-1 on February 28, then won 11-8 on April 25.
He might not have the jersey number, but McCleney got the shot he wanted at Alabama.
“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.”