WALLA WALLA -- If he had taken that offer from the San Diego Padres, Jim Walker might have gotten to Walla Walla much sooner.
But then, if he had taken that road, he probably wouldn't have become a top officer with a major farm equipment manufacturing company either.
Walker, vice president for Case IH North American agricultural business, was in Walla Walla this week as part of a tour through the Northwest. It was his first visit to this area, although he had a chance to come here in the late '70s.
That happened when he was about to enter college after growing up in the small town of Bryan, Ohio. A left-handed pitcher, Walker had been looked at by a number of baseball scouts and had been contacted by the San Diego Padres, who offered him a chance to play with its farm club in Walla Walla.
"The other offer I had was to go to Florida for spring training," he said. "So there were these two choices."
Eventually, the desire to stay in the Southeast won out. He went on to attend Tri-State University in Angola, Ind., then on to a career that started with Deere and Company and led eventually to Case IH, where since 2006 he's been in charge of all the company's agricultural activities in the U.S. and Canada.
"It's been a great career so far," Walker said during his first stop Wednesday at Jones Truck and Implement company, where he met with Casey Jones, the third-generation owner of the Colfax-based business, and Tony Dunnagan, manager of the Walla Walla branch.
Walker had just finished a visit to the Midwest, where corn and soy crops are headed for a possible record year. He had flown into Portland the day before then driven to Walla Walla via Sunnyside and Pasco, meeting with agriculture producers along the way.
After Walla Walla, he was headed across the rolling hills of the Palouse region, again to meet with farmers and farm operators to talk about agricultural trends, problems and challenges.