Six things you need to know about the newest Yankee, Neil Walker
Last year, the Yankees were lovable underdogs that surprised pundits and fans by coming just short of the World Series. They aren't underdogs anymore.
They acquired Giancarlo Stanton to add another 59 homers to Aaron Judge's totals. Greg Bird will be healthy and ready to play a full season only 90 feet away from Gary Sanchez. The team added Brandon Drury to bolster the infield, and when they saw that Neil Walker was still on the free agent market -- a switch-hitter with the fifth-best wRC+ among second basemen since 2013 -- the Yankees swooped in and signed him.
That's a good team getting better, and woe unto those in the AL East. But what five things should you know about Walker before he puts on the pinstripes? Here you are:
The Pittsburgh Kid
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Walker became a hometown star that earned the moniker "the Pittsburgh Kid." Perhaps there was no better moment than when Walker delivered with a 10th-inning, walk-off homer to break a 0-0 tie against the Cubs on Opening Day. Sadly, despite his name having "walk" in the title, this was his only walk-off dinger:
Opening Day magic
Then again, maybe Walker just loves Opening Day, as evidenced by this Opening Day grand slam. While Walker will probably share time at second with Brandon Drury this year, the Yankees may want to make sure he's in the lineup when the season starts:
The nine-dinger April
When you think of Neil Walker, dingers are not the first thing you think of. While he's got plenty of power for a middle infielder, he's only topped 20-homers twice. But in his first month playing in New York last year (maybe it's a start of the year thing?), Walker blasted off. He tied a Mets record for homers in a month with nine. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury sapped some of his power, and he finished with 14:
The former-catcher-turned-third-baseman-turned-second-baseman may not have made his name with the glove, but he can certainly pick it. For evidence, enjoy Exhibits A, B, and C below:
A ready Toe-Night Show guest
If you're worried about the quality of the Toe-Night Show as Walker will likely push Ronald Torreyes down the depth chart, you shouldn't be. Perhaps he'll get into more character work next year:
While this one likely won't overtake "Salt Bae" as the most recognizable food meme, but there's definitely something to this:
And, hey, this could easily supplant Kevin McCallister's face as a go-to reaction shot:
Major League relations
Neil Walker's dad, Tom, isn't the only big leaguer in the family. That's because Tigers cult hero Don Kelly is Neil's brother-in-law (and, I guess, Tom's son-in-law).
Though Kelly and Neil played together in Triple-A, Don first met Neil's sister, college basketball star Carrie Walker, after seeing her play against his own sister's team. The two were married in 2007.