Pirates infielder Neil Walker participated in a live online chat with Pirates fans on Monday, just hours after being named to the 2010 Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team. During the chat, Walker answered many questions about his rookie campaign, his relationship with Pittsburgh and the fans, the club's outlook for 2011 and more. The complete chat transcript follows.
Neil Walker: Thanks for joining me on the chat today everyone. Glad to take a minute to answer your questions during the offseason. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.
Breener61: Hi Neil, congrats on a great season. Are you settled in and comfortable with second base? I know you have played other positions but you look smooth and handled it extremely well last season.
Neil Walker: I had a lot of good help last year with second base. It's still not second nature to me yet, but from a confidence standpoint, the coaching staff and my teammates got me in a position to just go out and use my athletic ability.
brnw718: What was your favorite fan experience?
Neil Walker: I really enjoy PirateFest in late January because it shows how devoted the fan base is here in Pittsburgh. Especially during the heart of Steelers season. It's always nice to see Pirates fans come out in full force during the offseason.
eherold601: Where is your favorite place to eat in the city?
Neil Walker: My favorite place to eat is a place that's new to me in the Strip District called Tamari. It's sushi with kind of a Spanish-type influence and it is just a really cool setting.
kristyr: You said you were "at a loss for words" after hitting your first Major League home run. Now that it's been several months later, can you describe the feeling you had rounding the bases in front of your hometown crowd and family?
Neil Walker: Obviously, I was extremely elated after hitting my first home run at PNC Park. It has been my dream to put on a Pirates uniform since I was five years old, and to think back now on what was going through my head as I was rounding the bases, I was just sort of floating off the ground and nothing was even going through my head. The fact that we won and seeing how excited that my teammates were for me made it all the more enjoyable. But to be able to share that moment with the city of Pittsburgh was an extremely special moment for me.
gostate1: Congrats on the amazing rookie season. What impact do you believe Clint Hurdle will have on the team this upcoming year?
Neil Walker: Speaking with Clint and knowing his background, I believe that he'll bring strong character to this team and I'm very excited to get to work come this Spring Training. He has shown with his time in Colorado that he's found a way to bring a team together and win baseball games on a regular basis. I believe he can do the same here in Pittsburgh.
tamalyn: Will you be working with Bill Mazeroski in Spring Training on turning the double plays at second base?
Neil Walker: Yes, I will get an opportunity to work with Maz this Spring Training. Every year, he comes down and works with the infielders and does a tremendous job. But more so, to hear him speak about his playing days, especially his World Series season, is something that I think all players cherish.
brnw718: Do you do any offseason workouts?
Neil Walker: Yes, I have a workout schedule each week that consists of four days a week. Lifting weights, hitting, cardio, are all things that I focus on during the offseason, as well as rest and relaxation.
LifeLongFan: What's your favorite road city?
Neil Walker: Actually, I have two favorite road cities: Chicago and Denver. I'll have to get back to you sometime in the future to determine which one is my favorite.
york43k: Congrats on the great year. What are you looking forward to in 2011?
Neil Walker: I think there is a lot to look forward to in 2011. A lot of us younger guys will be a little more experienced this year. I think the team camaraderie will be better and I think that we are going to do a better job of finding ways to win games on a nightly basis, especially on the road.
iluvneil18: Do you ever go back to your old high school to help out with their team?
Neil Walker: I do try to get back to Pine-Richland any chance I can get. Obviously, the schedules don't quite match up, but I always like getting back and seeing my old coach and old stomping grounds.
hockchick: I was quite taken by your bio and your honoring Roberto Clemente and your dad's career. Why did you choose #18 for your jersey number?
Neil Walker: Well, #21 wasn't available! Eighteen kind of just fell to me because I had 19 last year, and Ryan Church really wanted 19, so I took the next-best number. But now knowing that Andy Van Slyke and Omar Moreno were a few of the guys to wear 18, I am definitely going to stick with it.
jimfalbo21: Congrats on being named to the Topps All-Rookie team!
Neil Walker: Thank you. It is a great honor to be named to the team. The personal accolades are great, but I would definitely trade all of them in for a World Series and like I said before, I'm really looking forward to getting going this spring and into the 2011 season.
jimfalbo21: Neil, thanks for signing autographs for fans during practically every game. Did you collect autographs at Three Rivers Stadium while growing up?
Neil Walker: I usually didn't collect autographs at Three Rivers, but was a huge fan and made it to probably 10 games a season as a kid. The most memorable autographs I did get came from the '94 All-Star game where I got Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr.'s autographs. Griffey is one of my all-time favorites so the ball he signed is definitely in a safe place.
Pirates628: What do you like most about the Pirate fans?
Neil Walker: Growing up as a Pirates fan myself, I know how passionate they are. Obviously, the last 20 or so years have been tough as a Pirates fan, but for you guys to stick with us is really something special. We are all working hard to get back to winning baseball and through the support of the fans, I believe we're headed in the right direction. I think 2011 will be a memorable season.
Neil Walker: A couple more here ...
isingg30: What teammate of yours are you closest with?
Neil Walker: I've grown close with a lot of teammates over the past few years. A couple of guys that I've become good buddies with are Pedro Alvarez and Joel Hanrahan. We get along great and spend a lot of time talking baseball and so on.
Pirates1331: I am really looking forward to the 2011 season getting underway. What do you look forward to the most?
Neil Walker: Like I said before, there is a ton to be optimistic about going into 2011. We think we have a great group of guys here and we are going to continue to add on as the offseason continues. There is no doubt in my mind that the group that we have is going to give their best effort on a nightly basis and I think through that, and through the support of the fans, it will be a great season.
Neil Walker: Thanks again for all your support and joining me today. I hope to see all of you at PirateFest in January and have a tremendous holiday season. Best wishes and God bless!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.