Neil Walker: Former Mets Second Baseman (2016 - 2017)

Neil Martin Walker
was born September 10th, 1985, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

His father was former MLB pitcher Tom Walker who pitched for the Montreal Expos (1972-1974 / 1977) Detroit Tigers (1975) St. Louis Cardinals (1976) & California Angels (1977).

Neil grew up a Pirates fan living in Pittsburgh & attending many games in the Peanut Heaven section of Three Rivers Stadium. The six foot three, switch hitting second baseman began his career as a catcher. Neil approached both Penn State & University of Pittsburgh about playing football, nut they wanted him to put on fifty more pounds to be a tight end.

In 2004 he was named the top high school catcher in the country for Baseball America's All-American Team. Walker was selected as a first round draft pick (11th pick overall) for the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004.



After five years in the Pirates minor leagues, he was converted to a third baseman then a middle infielder. One of his Pirates heroes was Pittsburgh Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski. Walker was lucky enough to be tutored by him in the Pirate organization when Bill was a coach. 

MLB Career: In September 2009, Walker debuted in the big leagues as a pinch hitter in a 11-5 loss at Cincinnati. He batted .194 in 17 games played.

In 2010 after starting the season in the minors, he was called up in May & given the starting second baseman's job. He got off to a hot start batting .350 in his first ten games. 

First Career HR: On June 1st, he hit his first big league HR coming off the Cubs Ted Lilly at PNC Park. The HR ended up being the game winner in the 3-2 win. 

On July 20th Waalker had a five-hit game in an 11-9 win at Wrigley Field. He had two multi- RBI games where he drove in four runs each time that season. 
Neil played in 110 games on the year, hitting .296 with 12 HRs with 29 doubles & 66 RBIs making the 2010 Topps All Star Rookie Team.

Grand Slam HR: On Opening Day 2011, he hit his first career grand slam HR, making him the first Pirate to hit a grand slam HR on Opening Day since Roberto Clemente in 1962. The HR came off the Cubs Ryan Dempster & went completely out of Wrigley Field in the Pirates 6-3 win. 

On May 20th, he was honored with his own bobble head night. That night he hit a three run HR & drove in a season high five runs in a 10-1 win over the Detroit Tigers.

For 2011 he had career highs in doubles (36) RBIs (83) and strike outs (112).  His 8 sac flies were third best in the NL. With his glove he led all second baseman in put outs, double plays turned (108) & games played (108) while his .992 fielding % was second in the NL.

In 2013 Walker hit 16 HRs with 24 doubles 15 hit by pitches (3rd most in the NL) & a career low 53 RBIs batting .251. On the defensive side he turned the second most double plays of all NL second baseman (88) & was in the top three in put outs, assists & fielding (.989%). 

From September 19th thru the end of the season, Walker helped the Pirates win a wild card spot by hitting six HRs over the nine-game span with eight RBIs.

2013 Post Season: In the NL Wild Card Game victory over the Reds at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Walker went 2-5 with an RBI double off Sean Marshall.

In the NLCS he struggled going hitless (0-19) striking out five times in the loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Walk Off Opening Day HR: In 2014 he was once again the Opening Day hero, hitting a walk off HR in the 10th inning. The HR came off the Cubs Carlos Villanueva in a scoreless game for the 1-0 win. The last Pirate to hit an opening day walk off HR was Bob Bailey back in 1965.

On April 14th, Walker made some more history when he and Gaby Sanchez, hit back-to-back home runs twice against the Cincinnati Reds. No Pirate duo had done that feat since Toby Atwell & Jerry Lynch in 1954. 

That year, Walker passed Bill Mazeroski's team record for most HRs by a second baseman with a career high 23. He had a good season hitting 25 doubles with 71 RBIs, an .809 OPS while raising his average twenty points from the previous season to .271. 

Once again, the steady second baseman was in the top three in most of the leagues top defensive categories.


2014 Post Season: In that years Wild Card game Walker went 0-4 in the Pirates loss to the San Francisco Giants. 

In 2015 his numbers remained steady once again, hitting 16 HRs with 146 hits 32 doubles 71 RBIs & a .269 batting average in 151 games. He also hit eight sac flies (7th most in the league).  

Six RBI Game: On September 23rd, he helped the Pirates clinch their playoff spot as he had a career day, collecting four hits, hitting his 15th HR & drove in a career high six runs in a 13-7 Pirate win in Colorado.

In 2015 defensively Walker was third in games (146) assists (418) fifth in fielding (.989) & double plays turned (103).

In December he was traded to the New York Mets for Jonathon Niese.

Quotes- Neil Walker "It's an exciting opportunity obviously with the success that the Mets have had this past year. Obviously, there's mixed emotions, being a born and bred Pittsburgher and obviously not knowing any other organization. It's definitely been a whirlwind day and something that my wife Niki and I, who's also from the same area that I'm from in Pittsburgh, are obviously dealing with all the emotions that are coming with what's going to go on with this new life that we're about to embark on. "

Mets Career: Walker arrived in New York replacing the Mets 2015 Postseason hero Daniel Murphy at second base. As Murphy moved on to the Washington Nat's going on to have the best year of his career.

Walker joined the reigning NL Champs who struggled in 2016. At times Walker was carrying the Mets team that always found trouble scoring runs.

Walker & shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera were fine additions to the Mets, making a solid defense up the middle as well as productive bats in the lineup. Things were going well Carrera went down with injury at the end of July.

First Mets HR:
 On April 5th, in the second game of the season in a World Series rematch in Kansas City, Walker helped the Mets & Noah Syndergaard to a 2-1 win hitting his first HR of the year, coming off Chris Young.

In the Mets home Opener, Walker had two RBI singles in the 7-2 win over the Phillies. In his first five games he had driven inn five runs.

Multi HR Game: On April 19th, Walker had a multi-HR game, hitting two HRs off the Phillies Brett Oberholtzer in an 11-1 Mets blow out win.

From April 15th thru April 30th, Walker batted .351 with 8 HRs & 14 RBIs including an eight-game hit streak in the 14-game span.

He closed out April leading the club in HRs (9) RBIs (19) while batting .307. Walker cooled off in May but hit HRs in the last two games of the month including one off the White Sox Jose Quintana in a 1-0 Matt Harvey win over Chicago.

In June Neil helped the Mets with a HR & three RBIs in a 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

In the first two weeks of July, Walker had eight RBIs while hitting two HRs. On July 2nd, he hit a HR in the 1st inning and helped the Mets to a 4-3 win during a sweep of the Chicago Cubs

On July 15th, he hit a three run HR off the Phillies Jeremy Hellickson in Philadelphia led the Mets to a 5-3 win.  Soon Walker was struggling thru the summer as his average dropped down to .237 by late July.

Four RBI Game: On July 31st, Walker had another three-hit game & drove in a season high four runs. In the 1st inning, he tripled in a run off the Rockies, Chad Bettis. In the bottom of the 7th with the Mets down 6-4, Walker hit his 17th HR of the year, a three-run shot off Boone Logan leading the Mets to a 6-4 win over the Rockies.

In August Walker was hot again, having three, three hit games during a five-game stretch. He then went on a nine-game hit streak, hitting safely in 15 of 18 games, producing more than anyone in a struggling line up.



On August 3rd, in the subway series he had a four-hit game with a solo HR off Tyler Clippard in the Mets 9-5 loss in the Bronx. 

On August 7th he hit a two run HR in a much needed 3-1 win in Detroit helping the Mets break a losing streak. 

On August 9th, Walker hit his 20th HR of the season, coming off Arizona's Zack Greinke in a loss at Citi Field.

On August 14th &15th he hit back-to-back HRs, reaching 22 HRs for the season, getting his average back up to .275. 

On August 27th, Walker homered off the Phillies Severino Gonzalez matching his season high 23rd HR in a 12-1 Mets win.

At the end of August Walker was leading the club in hits & on base % &. He was second in HRs, RBIs, runs scored & slugging. At second base, Walker's defense had him in the league's top four among second baseman in games, assists & put outs.

But unfortunately for him & the Mets he went down with a season ending back injury that required surgery. 

The Mets took a big blow to the season as Walker joined Lucas Duda & David Wright as three of the four Mets 2016 infielders finished due to back injuries.

Walker ended his first year as a Met with 23 HRs 9 doubles 55 RBIs & a .282 batting average in 113 games played. 

Surgery: On September 8th he had successful back surgery to repair the herniated disc. 

Quotes- Neil Walker: "The initial prognosis was to push through, but the more I did I was hurting the team and myself. This was a very difficult decision. I want nothing more than to be on field."

The Mets did win the final wild card spot but lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLWC Game.

2017: This season, Walker struggled just like the rest of the Mets team. His return from surgery had him battling to hit .200 until mid-April. At the start of May he fell back under .200 as the Mets were in last place.

On May 12th & 13th Walker hit HRs in back-to-back games. The next game he drove in three runs with two doubles in a 11-9 loss at Milwaukee.


Multi HR - Four RBI Game:
On May 26th Walker had a big game in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Neil hit a pair of HRs off Chad Kuhl & had an RBI single for a season high four RBIs in an 8-1 Mets win over the Pirates. 

Walker started out June with three HRs & five RBIs in the first two weeks but then went down with another injury putting him on the DL until the end of July. 

His return to the Mets was short as on August 11th he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named later. The Mets were sellers as they finished fourth a disappointing 70-92.

Post Mets Career: Walker batted .267 in 38 games at Milwaukee.

In 2018 he signed a one-year deal with the AL New York club, batting .219 with 11 HRs & 46 RBIs. In August of that year, he hit a HR from both sides of the plate for the first time in his career.

2018 Post Season: In the ALDS loss to the Red Sox, he batted .250 going 1-4.
 
In 2019 he signed with the Marlins batting .261 in 115 games. In 2020 he finished his career with the Phillies batting .231 in 18 games.

Career Stats: In his 12-year career Walker had 1224 hits with 149 HRs 238 doubles 22 triples & 515 RBIs batting .273. He struck out 931 times with 460 walks, a .340 on base % & 764 OPS in 1306 games.

Family: Walker was still living with his parents in his rookie season & did not move out until 2011. 

In 2011 he married his girlfriend Niki they had a daughter born in August 2016.

Catholic Values: Walker is a strong Catholic & helped lead an effort to provide a weekly Mass for his teammates & visiting players alike. Walker says that Mass services are an important part of his life because they "combat the negative qualities" found in living the lifestyle of a Major League Baseball player.

Family: Walker's father Tom Walker was a major league pitcher from 1972-1977. 


On New Years Eve 1972 while playing Winter Ball with Roberto Clemente, he helped him load a plane carrying supplies for earthquake victims in Nicaragua. 

Walker offered to fly with Clemente to help out, but since the plane was full Clemente told him not to go. That night Clemente died as that plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Neils brother Matt played minor league baseball 7 his brother Sean pitched at George Mason University. His sister Carrie Walker was a pro basketball player. 

Carrie married former MLB player Don Kelly who played for the Pirates (2007) Tigers (2009-2014) & Marlins (2015-2016). He later became a coach with the Pirates (2020-2024).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Remembering Bobby Ojeda's Tragic Boating Accident (1993)

Fictional Mets Infielder Chico Escuela ( of SNL) Visits Mets Spring Training (1979)

Remembering Vixen Founder / Guitarist; Jan Kuehnemund (1961-2013)

Remembering Mets History (1979) SNL's Chico Escuela Visits Mets Spring Training & Attempts a Career Comeback

Remembering Mets History: (1977) The Felix Millan / Ed Ott Brawl In Pittsburgh