Devil Rays minor-leaguer missing

Published October 23, 2006

INDEPENDENCE, Va. - Rescue crews plan to resume searching today for a Devil Rays minor-league pitcher who went missing after his canoe overturned in the New River on Saturday.

Nearly 200 searchers looked Sunday for Erik James Walker, a former star pitcher at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte from Clemmons, N.C. A canoe carrying him and a female companion flipped 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Molly Shoals section of the river, about 2 miles from the Virginia/North Carolina border, said Jason Harris, a game warden for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

"They were hanging onto it," Harris said. "Mr. Walker lost his grip when they got to deeper water."

The woman, who was not identified, made it to shore and called for help, Grayson County Sheriff Jerry Wilson said in a statement. She was not injured.

Harris said swift waters in the area have made searching difficult. The water temperature was about 45 degrees when the canoe overturned.

Walker, a right-hander who turned 23 last week, was drafted in the 20th round in June. He went 3-1 with a 0.48 ERA and seven saves in 20 appearances for Hudson Valley and was named to the New York-Penn League All-Star team.