When Joey Walls Jr. transferred from the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) to UNLV this past fall, there was no worries about fitting in with a new team as he reunited with several familiar faces.
Growing up in Las Vegas, Walls attended Rancho High School, where he played with Edarian Williams, who committed to UNLV in high school, and Jimmy Gamboa, who had transferred from CSN in 2019.
Another familiar face Walls met up with again was Hustlin’ Rebel Austin Pfeifer, who Walls played tee-ball with at the age of five, this is when Walls first started playing or in his words “since 2005.”
“It’s pretty awesome growing up here,” Walls said. “A lot of people I don’t know and a lot of people I do know come out and watch, a lot of support which is cool. Same with growing up playing with these guys and now we’re on the same team.”
Little did he know at the time, the relationships he was building from tee-ball to high school would help him get to play ball for UNLV.
“When I was growing up I told my dad I wanted to play at CSN but I didn’t know I would end up at UNLV,” Walls said. “Even though out of high school I wanted to play at UNLV, it didn’t happen. But after CSN it did.”
During Walls’ senior year of high school, he committed to playing at CSN around October of 2017. For three seasons, 2019-2021, Walls would make 118 starts for the Coyotes hitting 12 home runs and 102 RBIs.
After his junior season at CSN, Walls got recruited to come play for UNLV. “Edarian was help, Pfeifer was help, [Austin] Kryszczuk was help, and a couple of other local guys [on getting him recruited],” Walls said. “I told them I always wanted to go to UNLV and they pushed a little bit on the coaches.”
Walls got his first start as a Hustlin’ Rebel on Feb. 19 during UNLV’s opening series against Michigan State and has since made 23 starts so far in his first year at UNLV.
“It was a shocker,” Walls said on cracking the starting lineup. “ I had a terrible fall and I didn’t think I’d play at all this year but I kept working and grinding for it.”
So far this season, Walls has hit seven home runs, 34 RBIs, and a grand slam while averaging a .447 batting average. On defense, Walls’ has a .909 fielding average out in right field with 33 catches and 30 putouts.
But before he found his position out in right field, Walls’ was once a catcher and a right-handed pitcher, back in high school.
“I’ve caught, pitched, and played one out at first base last year at CSN,” Walls said.
From playing a few very different positions in baseball during high school to college, Walls has picked up a few skills in each making him a better player, but to him, his mentality is what he’s improved on most.
“From high school to CSN and high school to here,” Walls said. “I’ve probably improved mentally, the way I approach the game, off the field, my diet, weight room, and just being locked in.”
A few other changes came from transferring from CSN to UNLV, specifically, the type of bats that are swung. At CSN, Walls swung wood, where he recalls breaking four bats.
Here at UNLV he swings metal and says, “the pitchers throw more strikes and they are better at locating their pitches but I mean we kinda saw the same velocity.”
As Walls settles in here at UNLV and adjusts to the transition to Division-I, he has appreciated how close he is to his teammates and enjoys taking the field with them every game.
“Just being on the field with my teammates,” Walls said. “Not thinking about homework or anything school related.”
But before taking the field with his teammates, you can find Walls listening to music which is something he has to do before every game.
“I always listen to music,” Walls said. “It doesn’ matter what I’m listening to, just whatever I’m in the mood for that day.”
“I listen to Moneybagg Yo, sometimes country, sometimes rock, it just depends.”
After taking the field for a game, Walls added, “I talk a lot, it probably doesn’t seem like that off the field but on the field I talk a lot, and I have a lot of different accents.”
While Walls didn’t want to share any of his accents, he did share a few more fun facts about himself and what he does outside of baseball.
“I like fishing, going to the lake, spending all my money on clothes and food and eating,” Walls said.
In his UNLV bio, it states he “eats fast” and had to elaborate more on what that means, “too fast,” Walls said. “Like everyone, we’ll go up to breakfast and everyone is still eating and I’m done with my plate in like three minutes. I don’t even talk, I just scarf it down.”
A few more things not mentioned in his bio is that Walls is a Los Angeles Angels fan with his favorite current player being Mike Trout, but grew up idolizing Vladimir Guerrero.
Despite being an Angels fan, if he could play on any MLB team, Walls said, “that’s tough, probably the 2009 Yankees team, just the whole lineup.”
As Walls becomes a continuous starter on UNLV’s lineup, he quickly became a fan favorite to kids who come out to Earl E. Wilson stadium to watch the games and ask Walls for his autograph.
“Maybe 20 [autographs],” Walls said. “Actually no because we signed all those posters and there were like 200 posters, so over 200.”
To get an autograph from Joey Walls or any of the other Hustlin’ Rebels, come out to UNLV’s single game contest against UC Riverside on Tuesday, April 5. First pitch is at 2:05 p.m.