— Sports

Going home: longtime 2B Neil Walker retires with no regrets

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Neil Walker spent his childhood watching the Pittsburgh Pirates struggle. He spent his 20s helping the franchise escape two decades worth of futility and a portion of his 30s working in the exacting crucible of New York City.

Asking any more from baseball seemed greedy.

The longtime major league second baseman said Wednesday he was retiring, ending a 12-year career that saw him become an integral part of the group that returned his hometown Pirates to the playoffs and reached the postseason with both the Mets and Yankees.

The 35-year-old spent 2020 with Philadelphia before being released last September. He spent the offseason staying in baseball shape. About four weeks ago, it became apparent that an opportunity to keep going wouldn’t immediately materialize. So rather than hold on, he decided to move on.

“I’m going to try and catch up with my family, with my friends and do a lot of things I haven’t been able to do for a long time, such as going on summer vacation and July 4 and go to Pirate games and have family events that you missed during the spring and summer,” Walker said Wednesday.

Walker hit .267 with 149 home runs and 609 RBIs in 1,306 games with six teams, most of them in Pittsburgh. The Pirates grabbed him with the 11th overall selection in the 2004 amateur draft. Together, Walker and centerfielder Andrew McCutchen became part of the core that eventually – and ultimately, briefly – lifted the franchise out of mediocrity.

Walker reached the majors in 2009 and recorded the final out when Pittsburgh won its 82nd game in 2013, ending a streak of 20 straight losing seasons. That year culminated with a playoff berth and a wild card victory over Cincinnati during a giddy night at PNC Park that felt something akin to an exorcism.

“Forget any individual accolade I may have had, Silver Slugger to whatever,” Walker said. “That moment, for me, was so prideful. I won’t forget one second of that entire game and that entire night because I felt it. My family felt it. My friends felt it. My teammates felt it, and they finally understood what this city and this community, how passionate they are about their sports.”

The Pirates reached the playoffs three straight years from 2013-15. Yet with Walker in arbitration and nearing free agency, Pittsburgh dealt him to the Mets in December 2015 for pitcher Jon Niese. Walker understands the economics of baseball don’t lend itself to storybook endings for players who aren’t stars but perpetual grinders.

Molly Aronson

Molly Aronson is a 26-year-old government politician who enjoys bowling, running and jigsaw puzzles. She is creative and exciting, but can also be very greedy and a bit greedy.She is an australian Christian who defines herself as straight. She has a post-graduate degree in philosophy, politics and economics. She is allergic to grasshoppers.

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