Neil Walker was that rarity—a guy who dreamed of being in the big leagues who actually got to play for his hometown team.
After twelve years in Major League Baseball, most of them with the Pirates, Walker announced his retirement today on Twitter.
Officially retired, thank you to everyone that helped me in my journey to live out my childhood dream of being a Major Leaguer, I loved & cherished every day. From Pittsburgh, NY Mets & Yankees, Milwaukee, Miami, and Philly, nothing but love to those Organizations, Cities & Fans! pic.twitter.com/mvl3cg9k80— Neil Walker (@NeilWalker18) April 20, 2021
A lot of Bucs fans hoped that Walker would come back to the team for one last hurrah after his brief stint with the Phillies last year, but it was not to be. He also played for the Mets, Brewers, Yankees, and Marlins.
A second-generation major leaguer, the North Hills native was a multi-sport standout at Pine-Richlands High School. He was drafted by the Pirates in the first round of the 2004 draft and made his major league debut on September 1, 2009, coming up permanently the following year. In his six full seasons with the Bucs, he primarily played second base, with some dabbling at third. His slash line was .272/.338/.431, with an OPS of .769, hitting 93 home runs with 418 RBI.
Always a Bucco fan favorite, in his first full year, he had an eighteen-game hitting streak, the longest by a Pirate since Rennie Stennett in 1971. His first career grand slam started off the 2011 season. The only other Pirate to hit a grand slam on Opening Day was ... Roberto Clemente. He scored one of the runs in the famous 2013 Wild Card game and won the Silver Slugger award in 2014. To this day, Walker jerseys can be frequently spotted in the wild here in the Burgh. He does maintain a family tie to the Bucs—his brother-in-law is bench coach Don Kelly.
In a 2015 interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Walker had this to say:
“I’m a Pittsburgh person ... I’ve been to a lot of different places, (but) nowhere else in the country has the same sense of community as the Pittsburgh area. I feel like I’ve tried to give that blue-collar effort day in and day out for the organization. And I hope that, at the end of the day, I’ve made people in Pittsburgh proud.”
You have, dude. You have.