Walker feels holiday spirit in festive Pittsburgh
Newly married Pirate adds charitable efforts to yearly traditions
PITTSBURGH -- It has been a whirlwind few months for Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, whose biggest offseason venture was getting married earlier this month. Now, he's preparing to spend the holidays in Pittsburgh, the only place he has ever known as home.
Walker graciously took a few minutes to talk with MLB.com about his upcoming holiday plans and to share some of his Christmas memories. Here is what he had to say:
MLB.com: Can you give us an idea of what Christmas is like at the Walker household?
Walker: Basically, it is madness. We always have Christmas Day at my parents' house in the evening, and it is usually filled with a lot of food and loud conversations. Now, it's turned into children running all over the place.
As a kid, I was the youngest of four, and the oldest was eight years older than me. I always took the brunt of the humiliation. I have tried to turn those tables as time has gone along.
MLB.com: What is particularly special about celebrating Christmas in Pittsburgh?
Walker: One of my favorite things about living in Pittsburgh is that you know you're going to get the four seasons. Come Dec. 25, there's always a good chance it's going to snow. People are always in the holiday spirit here. Living out in the suburbs where I do, I always find that there is a lot to do. People go to Hartwood Acres and other places to see lights. The Christmas spirit is just always in full bloom here.
MLB.com: Do you expect to have any new holiday traditions now that you are married?
Walker: I don't know. That's a good question. I think we'll be flipping coins to see where we go on Christmas Eve. Fortunately, our parents live only about a mile and a half apart, so we can hit both in one day.
Also, this year we've gone out and helped a less fortunate family by buying gifts for them. This is the first year that we've done that, and I think that is something that we will continue doing.
MLB.com: What is on your Christmas wish list this year?
Walker: I don't really have anything that I really want, though over the last couple years I have really gotten into memorabilia. I like the Penguins stuff. I like the Steelers stuff. And I like to collect stuff from teammates with the Pirates, too. That's something that I have started to do that I really enjoy and that is personal.
Other than that, I feel like I'm very fortunate and blessed to have a lot of things.
MLB.com: What have you been up to this offseason?
Walker: I started working out in November and hit recently for the first time. I have been working out all offseason, though it has gone quickly, obviously, with getting married. All in all, it's been great. I'm anxious.
Staying healthy was a huge thing for me this past year, and I feel like a lot of preventative work last year helped me stay healthy for the year. Because of that, I really haven't changed much with my offseason workout routine.
I want to just continue to develop as a player. From a hitting standpoint and a fielding standpoint, I want to continue to do what made me successful last year. And then I will grow just from the experience of it all.
MLB.com: With the New Year approaching, what are you most looking forward to about 2012?
Walker: Last June and July, when we really got into full swing and were playing well, the ballpark was filled. I think from Day One this next year that energy and atmosphere is going to be there. I hope it's not going to take time to build up. That's something that I'm looking forward to because people are so passionate here.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.