YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN! Les Walrond, Memphis Redbirds pitcher, is living proof that hard work can pay off in the form of achievement, success, and even getting to throw sliders with family and friends looking on. Walrond attended Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he developed his baseball passion. Then it was off to the University of Kansas, where the outfielder changed his position from retrieving fly balls to the pitching mound. The St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round of the June 1998 free-agent draft selected him. After pitching stints with minor league teams in New Jersey, Peoria, Potomac, New Haven, and Memphis his arm is his ticket back home for the Triple-A All-Star Game being played at Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark. Les Walrond, who leads the Redbirds with 74 strikeouts, has a 6-4 record with a 4.35 ERA recently sat down with the Flyer to discuss how he feels about going home to live his dream and play in the Triple-A All-Star game. Flyer: Tell me how it feels to represent the Memphis Redbirds in your home state of Oklahoma while playing in the Triple-A All-Star Game? Les Walrond: It feels pretty good. I made an all star team when I was in Peoria (Chiefs) single A ball. I cant imagine what Triple-A All Stars is going to be like. Im just real excited to be down there. Flyer: What will it be like to live your dream in Oklahoma City in front of family and friends? Les Walrond: Im going to have a lot of friends and family coming down. I called my friends and said you guys are going to have to make a trip up to Oklahoma City because Im going to be playing in an All-Star Game. Everybody is really happy and everybody has been so supportive. Flyer: Tell me about when you were at the University of Kansas where you were an outfielder and a scout told you your arm had big-league potential? Les Walrond: I grew up hitting; my dad had hitting books and hitting tapes. I always thought of myself as a hitter and an outfielder. Daryl Monroe, a great outfielder who got drafted before me, told me I was a left-handed pitcher. And I have a chance if I work at it and become a pitcher and not a thrower. I decided to change my mind frame toward pitching. Flyer: What do you tell young people about hard work paying off and leading to success and all-star appearances? Les Walrond: I try to tell young kids to stay positive and focus on what youre trying to do. And Ive always said that its one of those things where you can do anything if you put your mind to it. When I was in college and I converted over to pitching I struggled pretty badly I had like an a 7 era. I had doubts but I kept my mind on it and I focused and here I am today. Flyer: How is it to be in Memphis playing for the Redbirds? Les Walrond: When I first got here and walked into the locker room I felt like I was in the big leagues right away. Its just a first class system, everybody that works here they treat you with class, and its just all around a great place to play. Flyer: What does your success mean to your family when they get to come out and see you play in the All-Star Game? Les Walrond: It means a lot for my mom. I called her and told her I made the team at like 2 oclock in the morning, and she didnt go to sleep until 6 oclock that morning. She showed more excitement than I have, because Im trying to keep it in perspective. Ive made an All-Star team, and Im going to have to throw strikes. Flyer: Has the All-Star dream set in yet? You will be going home to Oklahoma and suiting up for the game in your home state Les Walrond: It hasnt set in yet until some of my family high school buddies come up and theyre going to see me in my uniform. Its going to be a pretty nice feeling because my friends and family have always been really supportive of me. I think it' going to set in once I get out there that first day. Flyer: What would you like to tell Memphis Flyer readers and Redbirds fans? Les Walrond: I just want to thank the fans for being supportive and for my opportunity to come up here and pitch. Ive had a couple of games where I have struggled out there, but every time we come off the field fans give us a strong ovation whether we do good or bad. Ffans have been real supportive, and I just want to tell then thank you very much.