A former first-round pick himself, Tom is now enjoying a second career through the success of 25-year-old Neil. Drafted by the team he rooted for as a child, Neil has been the Pirates' starting second baseman for a little more than a year now. He's relied heavily on advice from his dad to get to a place of sustained success, too.
"I know talking with my dad, if I have an 0-for-5 game, he won't even acknowledge it," Neil said. "He knows that's how baseball is."
Tom has been quick to offer words of wisdom, too. Given that he made his livelihood with his arm, Tom typically stays away from offering his son pointers about his swing. Rather, his advice surrounds the mental side of the game and the grind of a 162-game season.
"I know Neil [has] leaned on me a lot as far as the experience of Major League Baseball and what it took to get there, and understanding that it wasn't going to be just like high school," Tom Walker said. "Success came easy for him there. We talk[ed] a lot about the sacrifices he was going to have to make and how much time and effort he'd have to put into it to be a great Major League Baseball player."
Tom's big league career spanned six seasons and five different organizations. Drafted by the Orioles, he made his Major League debut with Montreal in 1972. After stops with the Cardinals, A's and Tigers, Walker's career actually ended with him pitching for the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Columbus (Ohio).
He has resided in Pittsburgh since, as his wife, Carolyn, has roots in the city. He has also always had an affinity for the Pirates given the relationship he formed with Roberto Clemente, who was Walker's manager during a Puerto Rican winter ball season.
The tie to the organization has only strengthened since. It is now so strong, in fact, that when Tom talks about the Pirates he does so referring to himself as a part of the franchise.
That's why Tom wants to spend as many nights as he can in the ballpark that rests along the Allegheny River. Because when his son helps turn the Pirates back into a proud and winning franchise -- something that the elder Walker firmly believes is on the horizon -- he wants to feel just as much a part of the renaissance.
"It's an ultimate goal for Neil," Tom said. "It's become an ultimate goal for us to help support him in that effort. To see the team, after struggling for so many years, to get back to respectability and get back over .500 and actually compete for a championship in the division, it would be unbelievable. It would be one of the highlights of my baseball career here with the Pirates."