Devil Rays minor leaguer dies in canoe accident
St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - The body of Tampa Bay Devil Rays minor league pitcher Erik Walker was found Thursday after he was involved in a canoe accident last weekend. He was 23.
Walker had been missing since Saturday following the capsizing of his canoe on the New River in Virginia. Game wardens with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) located Walker's body at approximately 11 a.m.
According to the VDGIF, Walker and a female friend were canoeing when their boat capsized. They were wading with the canoe when they encountered deeper water. Walker couldn't hold on to the canoe. His friend made it to shore and called 911.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Walker family," Devil Rays director of minor league Operations Mitch Lukevics said in a statement. "We came to know Erik as young man who played baseball the same way he lived his life, full of enthusiasm, passion and joy. He was a good player, a good person and a great teammate. He was exactly the kind of individual we would want wearing our major league uniform."
Walker was found in the same section of the New River where he had last been seen. That stretch of the river, known as Molly Shoals, has swift water and is filled with underwater logs, boulders and ledges.
"Water levels had dropped and water clarity had improved sufficiently for us to find him," Game Warden Jason Harris said in a statement.
The search effort had been ongoing since Saturday, when Walker had been reported missing at approximately 12:30 p.m. Weather and water conditions had hampered search operations.
Walker, who played collegiately at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was a 20th round pick of the Devil Rays. He pitched in 20 games last season for Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League, posting a 3-1 record with a 0.48 ERA and seven saves.
10/26 20:30:00 ET