BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU All-American second baseman Todd Walker is among four former standouts from Southeastern Conference universities that have been named to the 2023 class of the SEC Baseball Legends presented by T-Mobile. The 2023 class also includes Auburn’s Frank Thomas, Georgia’s Derek Lilliquist, and Kentucky’s Joe Blanton.
The legends class will be recognized at the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament, which will take place May 23-28 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
Below is a listing and biographies of the 2023 SEC Baseball Legends:
• LSU – Todd Walker, 1992-94
• Auburn – Frank Thomas, 1987-89
• Georgia – Derek Lilliquist, 1985-87
• Kentucky – Joe Blanton, 2000-02
Todd Walker, LSU
Todd Walker was named first team All-SEC three times and was voted the SEC Player of the Year in 1993. During his three seasons (1992-94) at LSU, Walker was a two-time first team All-American, and he led the Tigers to the national championship in 1993, earning the College World Series Most Outstanding Player award. Walker posted a .396 cumulative batting average over three seasons, and he completed his collegiate career as the SEC all-time leader in hits (310), runs (234), RBI (246) and total bases (557). Walker was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009 and in 2017 Walker became the 11th LSU athlete or coach in any sport to have his jersey retired.
A native of Bossier City, La., Walker was the eighth overall selection in the 1994 Major League Baseball Draft after a brilliant three-year career at LSU. He played 12 seasons (1996-2007) in the major leagues and earned his business degree from LSU in 1998 by returning to school during the MLB off-seasons. During his major league career from 1996-2007, he played for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics. He helped lead the Red Sox to the 2003 American League Championship Series, launching five home runs during the club’s playoff run.
Walker was inducted into the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006, and he became a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. He now works as a college baseball analyst for the SEC Network.
Frank Thomas, Auburn
Frank Thomas was a first baseman at Auburn from 1987-89 and was also a tight end on the Auburn football team, lettering as a freshman in 1986. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, becoming the first and only SEC baseball player to be enshrined in Cooperstown. During his Auburn career, Thomas was a three-time All-SEC performer and was a consensus All-American as a junior in 1989. He led the SEC in hitting in 1988 and 1989 with .385 and .403 batting averages, respectively. His 21 home runs led the league in 1987. The Columbus, Ga., native is the only Auburn player in program history to win the team Triple Crown twice, and he led the team in home runs and RBIs in each of his three seasons.
The seventh overall pick of the 1989 Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago White Sox, Thomas played 19 years, including 16 with the White Sox before concluding his career with Oakland and Toronto. A five-time All-Star from 1993-97, Thomas was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1993 and 1994. Thomas also won the AL batting title in 1997 with a .347 average.
Thomas is the only player in major league history with seven consecutive seasons (1991-97) with at least a .300 batting average, 100 runs batted in, 100 runs scored, 100 walks and 20 home runs. He concluded his big-league career with 2,468 hits, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs, 1,494 runs scored, a .301 batting average and an OPS of .974. Thomas announced his retirement on February 12, 2010 and had his No. 35 jersey retired by the White Sox later that season.
Derek Lilliquist, Georgia
Derek Lilliquist was a three-year standout for Georgia from 1985-87. He holds the Georgia records for career wins (31) and strikeouts (387), and he also finished his collegiate career with a .318 batting average, 35 home runs, 41 doubles and 135 RBI for the Bulldogs.
The Winter Park, Fla., native garnered All-America and team MVP honors in 1987 when he hit a team-high 19 home runs, drove in 63 and was 14-3 on the mound with a 2.24 ERA. He earned national pitcher of the year honors and helped lead Georgia to its first College World Series appearance. The 1987 Bulldogs won 42 games and finished ranked seventh nationally. Lilliquist was also named Freshman All-America in 1985 and All-SEC in 1986 and 1987.
Lilliquist was the third Georgia player to be selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft when the Atlanta Braves selected him sixth overall in the 1987 draft. Lilliquist made his MLB debut in 1989 and finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Lilliquist also spent time with San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds organizations. During his major league career, he earned 25 wins and 17 saves. Following his retirement as a player, Lilliquist served as a high school coach, then served as pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals. He earned a 2011 World Series championship ring as a member of the Cardinals coaching staff and was part of the Cardinals staff that returned to the Fall Classic in 2013.
Joe Blanton, Kentucky
Joe Blanton pitched in 55 games during his Kentucky career from 2000-02. During his junior season, Blanton tallied five wins with 133 strikeouts in 100 innings. After his 2002 season, Blanton became the second Wildcat player all-time to be selected in the first round of the MLB Draft, as the Oakland Athletics nabbed him with the 24th overall pick.
A native of Brownsville, Ky., Blanton led the UK pitching staff in starts (14), complete games (3), innings pitched (100.0) and strikeouts (133) in 2002. His 133 strikeouts exceeded Brandon Webb’s (1998-2000) previous single-season high of 123 set in 2000, while his 231 career strikeouts rank fourth on the all-time list, surpassing Jay Ray’s 230 set from 1982-85. He was also awarded national player of the week honors by Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association when he outdueled Ball State’s Bryan Bullington, the first pick in the 2002 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2008 Blanton became the first Wildcat pitcher to win a game in the World Series, tossing six innings and hitting a home run in a 10-2 Philadelphia Phillies win over the Tampa Bay Rays in game four of the 2008 World Series. In addition to his time with the Athletics and Phillies, Blanton also had stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. He retired following the 2017 season and finished his major league career with 101 wins and 1,284 strikeouts.