UCSB and the Gauchos welcomed Neil Walton to the staff in the fall of 2013. A former standout shortstop at Cal State Fullerton, Walton oversees the position players, runs the offense, and assists with recruiting.
"Neil brings a level of experience to the program that is very hard to find and that we value very much," said Checketts. "From reaching the College World Series to plying his trade in the pros, there is a lot that Neil can teach our young players."
Over the course of the last three seasons, Walton has helped UCSB to a 117-54-3 (.684) record. As a player and coach, Walton has been a part of teams that have gone a collective 311-120-3 (.721) at the Division I level. Those teams have made six Regionals, five Super Regionals, and three College World Series.
In 2016, Walton helped UCSB reach its first ever College World series by way of the Nashville Regional and the Louisville Super Regional. The team set a new program record for wins against Division I opponents with a 43-20-1 record. Five UCSB players were picked in the 2016 MLB First Year Player Draft, bringing the total to 20 Gauchos that have had the opportunity to play pro baseball during Walton's tenure. UCSB also sported six All-Big West players and made jumps in home runs (32, plus-15) and stolen bases (77, plus-13) with a group that returned only two players that had over 100 at-bats in 2015.
In addition to his contributions on the field, Walton has worked tirelessly on the recruiting trail with assistant coach Eddie Cornejo and head coach Andrew Checketts. Each recruiting class during Walton's tenure has been nationally ranked, including the 2016 class which was ranked No. 9 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball, which marked the first top-10 class in program history and was tops in the state of California for 2016.
In the 2015 season, Walton watched over a UCSB group that returned to the NCAA tournament for the second time in the last three years, but also became the first UCSB squad in program history to host a regional.
The 2015 group finished the year with a 40-17-1 record and led the Big West conference on both sides of the ball by hitting .289 and fielding at a .976 clip. Following in the footsteps of 2014 All-American Joey Epperson, Cameron Newell shared the Big West Field Player of the Year Award with Cal State Fullerton's David Olmedo-Barrera, becoming UCSB's first conference Player of the Year since 1991. Newell joined nine of his other teammates as 2015 All-Conference selections, including position players Campbell Wear, Peter Maris, Robby Nesovic, Andrew Calica, and Luke Swenson.
At the end of the 2015 season, the Gauchos saw a program-record 10 of their players selected in the MLB draft. That number was second in the country only to Oklahoma's 11. Shortly after the draft, infielder Peter Maris signed as a free agent with the Rays which put the number to 11 players with the opportunity to play professionally in 2015.
In Walton’s first season with the Gauchos, UCSB was ranked among the top-10 nationally for the first time since 1986. Four players off the 2014 team were selected in the MLB draft including Golden Spikes Award nominee Joey Epperson. The Gauchos finished the season with a 34-17 record and five All-Conference selections. The incoming 2015 recruiting class also ranked No. 32 in the nation.
Prior to his time at UCSB, Walton spent time on staff at Cal State Fullerton assisting head coach Rick Vanderhook with coaching duties. That 2013 Titan team went 51-10 on its way to wining the Big West and reaching the NCAA tournament for the 21st consecutive season. Seventeen players went on to become draft picks off that team, including first round selections Outfielder/Pitcher Michael Lorenzen, infielder Matt Chapman, second rounder Thomas Eshelman, and third rounder JD Davis. The Titan team also produced six All-Americans, and 10+ All-Conference selections including Conference Defensive Player of the Year Richie Pedroza.
In the summer before Walton arrived in Santa Barbara, he served as the interim manager/assistant coach for the Terre Haute Rex Baseball Club in the Prospect Summer Collegiate League. There, he was tasked with running the pitching staff and took over manager responsibilities halfway through the season.
As a player, Walton was a three-year standout for the Titans. A slick-fielding shortstop, he featured in 107 games over three years at Cal State Fullerton. Walton was fortunate to play for future head coaches in George Horton, Vanderhook, Dave Serrrano, and Jason Gill. The Titans were ranked No. 1 in the country at some point of the season in all three of his years, and they won the National Championship in his sophomore stint. Following his junior year, Walton was part of a NCAA-record group of 14 Titans that were selected in the 2005 MLB draft.
After Fullerton, Walton was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 16th round of the 2005 MLB First Year Player Draft. He had earlier been drafted by the San Francisco Giants out of high school in the 23rd round of the 2002 draft, but attended Fullerton in lieu of signing. Walton spent four years in the Tampa Bay organization, rising as high as AA in 2008.
Walton owns a master’s degree in kinesiology (2013) and a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in psychology (2010) from Cal State Fullerton. He and his wife Emmy currently reside in Goleta.