Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Season Full of Hope for Pine-Richland Star

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Season Full of Hope for Pine-Richland Star

Article excerpt

Very few scholastic athletes gain the kind of national recognition Pine-Richland's Neil Walker has this year.

He played a prominent role in the Rams winning the WPIAL Class AAA football championship in the fall. Walker was part of the arguably the greatest game in the history of PIAA postseason play when Pine-Richland suffered a gut-wrenching, 39-38, double-overtime defeat to Manheim Central during a blizzard at Hersheypark Stadium in December.

Now, he is set to embark on his last baseball season, which could be his final step to a professional baseball contract. Walker is expected to go high in major league baseball's first-year player draft in June.

Walker, a catcher, is so highly touted that Baseball America, a magazine dedicated to its coverage of the minor leagues, college and scholastic baseball, made him a first-team preseason All-America selection.

Walker, 6 feet, 2 inches, 205 pounds, was the lone Pennsylvania player on the first or second team. Some scouts expect he'll go in the first round, possibly in the top 10. Others say the second round.

Walker has committed to Clemson University but said he'll have to wait until the draft to weigh a pro contract against college.

"Obviously, it will take a lot to get me to sign," Walker said. "I feel it's a win-win for me. If I get drafted and don't sign, it will suit me fine to go to Clemson and play baseball.

"I really like the coach and campus there. I talked to [Pirates pitcher and former ClemsonTiger] Kris Benson and he sold me on the school and the program. It's a fantastic baseball school."

Last season, Walker hit. 489 for Pine-Richland with 23 hits, five doubles, two triples, five home runs, 18 runs batted in and five stolen bases.

He said Baseball America's distinction touched him deeply.

"It's one of the biggest accomplishments of my life," Walker said. "To be on the list with some of those players is unbelievable. …

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