`The Walker' Won't Let Stroke Beat Him In Quest To Be Around Baseball

EVERETT - Jim Averill couldn't walk the race anymore. Couldn't be part of the game. Or even the show.

The stroke he suffered Nov. 8 took that away from him, and he figured he'd let it have the rest of his passion, too.

"Before Sunday, I made a decision that I wasn't going to go to too many games," he said. "But when I was here Sunday, the emotion caught up with me, and I thought I'll come to most of them to watch the games."

Hall of Famer's grandson

Averill, the grandson of Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill, is better known around Everett as The Walker, the man who for the past 12 baseball seasons took on all comers in a between-innings race around the basepaths.

He would start at second base. You would start halfway between first and second. He would walk. You would run. He, more often than not, would win.

`Beat the Walker' retired

Although recovered well enough to walk - and to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at last night's Everett AquaSox season opener - Averill likely is done as The Walker.

The club retired its Beat The Walker promotion (although team mascot Frankie the hot dog was seen doing a poor imitation last night). Averill's career record was 146-140.

So now he watches.

"It's different. . . . I don't know if it's better," said Averill, 42. "You spend 12 years of your life here. . . . It's different."

Averill has not yet been cleared by his doctor to resume his front-office job with the club. But if his recovery so far is any indication, that's just a matter of time.

After five weeks in the hospital, Averill left in a wheelchair Dec. 13. And by the end of March he was walking.

Progress fairly rapid

"I haven't come back 100 percent, but my progress is fairly rapid," said Averill, who had been working at the ballpark earlier in the day and was changing clothes later at home when the stroke hit.

His legs suddenly gave out, and he collapsed. "I didn't know I'd suffered a stroke," he said. "All I really felt was my legs - I couldn't stand. I didn't feel anything in my head."

Today, what lingers is stiffness in his left arm and left leg. "I might have that for a long time," he said. "It makes it a little tough to walk."

But it won't keep him from the game.