Toronto Blue Jays: Understanding the Pete Walker Situation

The Blue Jays longtime pitching coach Pete Walker, 52, was arrested early last Friday morning in Pinellas County, Florida for driving under the influence (DUI), the team has confirmed.

The Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training Headquarters and TD Ballpark are located in Dunedin.

USA Today said Walker was arrested at 12:45 a.m. ET on Friday and refused a breath alcohol test after being clocked at 82 mph (132 kph) in a 45-mph (72-kph) zone, according to the arrest affidavit.

Per the report, Walker “showed signs of impairment” that included “glassy eyes” and a “strong odour” on his breath. Court records show he was released later that morning after posting $500 bond.

Blue Jays longtime pitching coach Pete Walker was arrested Friday with a DUI charge.

Walker gave a statement after Saturday’s game against the Yankees:

The Blue Jays organization said they were gathering information and wouldn’t comment further “out of respect for the legal process.”

Walker was with the Blue Jays Saturday in Tampa when they beat the Yankees in Grapefruit League play, and was in the dugout again Sunday in the loss to the Phillies in Dunedin.

He’s been with the organization as a coach since 2009, taking over as pitching coach in November 2012. He pitched for the Blue Jays from 2002-06. He was credited with helping 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray with turning around his career last year, along with countless other pitchers like J.A. Happ and Steven Matz who’ve spoken highly of their work with Walker. His name had also appeared in offseason managerial searches.

Is Pete Walker “criminally inadmissible” to Canada?

According to Canada Border Services, Canada may or may not allow foreign citizens with DUI and dangerous driving convictions to enter the country. As per Immigration & Citizenship:

Under Canada’s immigration law, if you have committed or been convicted of a crime, you may not be allowed into Canada. In other words, you may be “criminally inadmissible.”

This includes both minor and serious crimes, such as:

dangerous driving, and
driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

While he’s been convicted of nothing, given the high-profile nature of his position, it might be up to a Canadian immigration officer to decide if Pete Walker will be allowed to enter Canada for their Home Opener against the Rangers on April 8th.

Comparing the DUI offense to laws in Ontario, and dangerous driving at 132 kph in a 72 kph zone (60 kph over the limit), he would have been subject to an immediate 90-day roadside suspension, a seven-day vehicle impoundment, and a $550 fine as a first-time offender if he had failed or refused to comply with a demand for alcohol or drug testing made by a police officer under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Examples of aggressive driving include: driving 40 kph or more above the posted speed limit on roads with a speed limit less than 80 kph driving 50 kph or more above the posted speed limit.

According to Yahoo Sports, MLB “has no formal policy regarding DUIs”.

Yordano Ventura, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. While the toxicology report on Ventura was not released, his death followed that of Jose Fernandez, which followed that of Oscar Taveras, which followed that of Josh Hancock, which followed that of Tim Crews and Steve Olin. Each died in an accident involving alcohol or drugs. Dozens more minor leaguers have lost their lives in crashes.

Recall the Blue Jays immediately cut ties with Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar and traded former closer Roberto Osuna after allegations of inappropriate conduct. The team also removed Alomar from the Level of Excellence and took down his banner at the Rogers Centre.

The New York Mets fired acting General Manager Zack Scott last November months after he’d been arrested on DUI charges in August. He’s since been found not guilty.

Pete Walker was arrested after showing signs of impairment and for driving at almost double the speed limit. If he’s not suspended, placed on administrative leave or fired for that, wouldn’t the Blue Jays organization appear somewhat hypocritical?

Will he even be allowed to enter Canada if he is convicted of a DUI offense?

If the answers to those questions above aren’t clear, then who potentially would replace him might be the more relevant question?

Here are a few possible names:

Matt Buschmann: Current Blue Jays bullpen coach and Director of Pitching Development, and the likely odds on favourite after being hired by the Jays in November 2018? He’s got some wild Blue Jays connections: when he was first promoted by the Diamondbacks to the majors in April 2016, he replaced former Blue Jay Kyle Drabek who was designated for assignment. In his MLB debut on April 10, 2016, against the Cubs, he pitched a scoreless top of the 9th, allowing only a base hit to… Munenori Kawasaki! And it was his former Vanderbilt teammate and Jays 2015 legend David Price who set him up with his wife!

Pat Hentgen: Recall that it was then minor-league pitching coach Pete Walker who replaced the first-ever Blue Jays Cy Young winner Pat Hentgen as bullpen coach in 2011. Hentgen stepped down at the time for personal reasons, but returned again as the Blue Jays bullpen coach in 2012 when Walker became the pitching coach.

Paul Quantrill: Former star Blue Jays reliever, who like Pat Hentgen saw his full-time special assistant position eliminated by the organization in September 2020. Father of Cleveland Guardian starter Cal Quantrill.

Jeff Ware: Triple-A Buffalo pitching coach. He had a brief stint as a Jay in the 1995-1996 seasons, pitching in 18 games with 9 starts.

Jim Czajkowski: Double-A New Hampshire picturing coach. He’s a former teammate of Dante Bichette in Colorado in 1994.

Phil Cundari: High-A Vancouver pitching coach. A former college pitching coach at Seton Hall and Rutgers in New Jersey. He was named the National Pitching Coach of the Year in 2011 when he was with Seton Hall. According to his BR Bullpen page, he is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in peak performance and mental toughness training for athletes.

 

Drew Hayes: Low-A Dunedin pitching coach. Like Buschmann, he also has a Vanderbilt pedigree.