CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said the back problems that plagued him at the end of the 2012 season are gone.
"Fortunately, I'm back to 100 percent health," he said Tuesday night at the Pirates Caravan stop at Charleston's downtown Ramada Inn.
Walker missed 27 of the Pirates' last 35 games with a herniated disc in his back. His return should put a smile on Pirates fans' faces. He knows all about being a Pirates fan. A Pittsburgh native, Walker's been one for as long as he can remember.
"It's my job, but more than that, I'm not just a fan of Pirates baseball and the organization, but of the city of Pittsburgh itself."
The 27-year-old switch-hitter was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from Pine-Richland High School in nearby Gibsonia, Pa., when the Pirates drafted him 11th overall in 2004.
He's been a lifelong Bucs fan, but that life hasn't seen a ton of success come out of Three Rivers Stadium or PNC Park.
Walker was barely in grade school the last time the Pirates had a winning season. That streak of losing seasons now has reached 20 years.
Despite the lean years, Walker said his optimism, both as a fan and a member of the club, hasn't wavered.