What do Ryan Howard, Ozzie Smith, Eric Karros, George Sisler, and Brett Gardner all have in common?

They all were walk-ons at their colleges before going on to playing professional baseball.

When Brett Gardner was named the Yankees’ center fielder this month, he was the latest example of a walk-on who could have an impact in the majors. Gardner was a walk-on at the College of Charleston in 2001.

This all is part of a piece by Jack Curry in today’s Times.

Ozzie Smith had this to say about being a walk-on:

“Being a walk-on didn’t discourage me,” Smith said. “It was a challenge. It was all about getting the opportunity. The one thing you have to do, whether you’re a walk-on or not, is, once you get that opportunity, you have to go through the window.”

Gardner’s own tryout wasn’t so good. He didn’t think he’d make it.

Gardner did not try out with anyone wearing jeans, but he remembered that he had an unimpressive workout in his freshman year. He did not hit a ball out of the infield in batting practice and made some sluggish throws to third base from right field.

“If I was a coach, I’d be like, This kid’s not going to cut it,” Gardner said. “I was fortunate enough to get called back several weeks later to work out with the team, and it ended up working out.”

Only time will tell if Gardner will become a defense force or an offense force like Smith, Karros, or Sisler.