What do you get when you mix a self-proclaimed stalker with a jack of all trades, both with a love for baseball, especially the Los Angeles Dodgers?
In this case, it’s Greg and Debbie Waltner, who have lived since July 2016 in Northern Meadows, where a visitor to their home thinks he’s in a collectibles or an indoor flea market: Knick-knacks — Matchbox cars, record albums, a “practice” military bomb, salt-and-pepper shakers, etc. — are all over the place, so he senses it’s an eclectic couple.
And then his eyes fixate on a large stack of signed baseballs.
Greg has even taken the time to put the several-dozen baseballs, all in plastic cubes and wooden ball holders, into alphabetical order, starting with Henry Aaron — and he made sure they’re out of direct sunlight, the ball’s worst enemy. You’ll also see baseballs signed by Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Ted Williams and a plethora of diamond greats.
The two 64-year-olds have an interesting story; she’s originally from Connecticut, he’s from SoCal, hence his passion for all things Dodgers. He’s also got quite a few three-ring binders containing cards going back to the 1950s — “vintage,” they’re called — mostly from his childhood. They’re organized numerically.
“I wasn’t putting them in my (bicycle) spokes,” he said. “I held onto them from a long time ago.”
They’ve only come in close contact with one ballplayer: Former Dodgers third baseman Ron “The Penguin” Cey.
Greg’s also saved used ticket stubs, along with two unused 2020 World Series Game 4 tickets, from games he’s attended, plus a 2020 World Series T-shirt and souvenir cap. If you visit them, check out their patio — they’ve got the bases from two seats from a minor-league ballpark attached to a wall.
“I save all things,” he said.
He’s not kidding.
Debbie’s favorite baseball memory was seeing Fernando Tatis slug two grand slams in one inning, although she saw it on TV, not at the game, and still remembers like it happened yesterday. (It was so long ago, his son, Fernando Jr., is an all-star shortstop with the San Diego Padres.)
Greg remembered both homers came off Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park, who their guest recalled had once pitched for the Albuquerque Dukes.
Debbie proudly showed off a 1988 Dodgers’ jacket, with what she believes is a mustard stain from a Dodger Dog; Greg had unworn T-shirts from that series, best-remembered for Kirk Gibson’s game-winning homer in Game 1. And although she’d been hoping for a diamond for Christmas 1997, instead he bought her a baseball glove.
“We still haven’t had ‘a catch’ yet,” she said, but that’d be something to see: Who has better control?
“I was a total tomboy (growing up),” Debbie, a breast-cancer survivor, said.
“The odds of us ever meeting were astronomical,” Debbie explained. She had just left her ex and was checking out a guest house behind Greg’s house, back in February 1995.
“We sat around talking for, like, three hours,” she recalled. “I wasn’t going to take the house but I was going to take the boy.
“There was a great deal of stalking and coercion involved on my part,” she admitted, leading up to their July 2000 nuptials. “He hadn’t even dated anybody.”
So they laughed a lot and had baseball in common.
They’re such fervid Dodgers fans that they even joined the Dodgers’ “Blue Crew” fan club, which is for kids.
Although Greg has retired, Debbie works at the Rio Rancho Aquatic Center.
With the world champion Dodgers erasing a 31-year hiatus from a World Series crown, the Waltners have bragging rights for a few more months, at least.
“Our favorite team is the Dodgers, and second is whoever’s playing the Yankees,” she joked, but don’t ask Greg if he’ll part with any of his Mickey Mantle cards.