PITTSBURGH -- Fans of the Pirates and of the Cubs, both of whom typically jam PNC Park when the two teams meet, hope to have a good weekend. Followers of nearby Pine-Richland High School know they'll have a fantastic three days. It isn't every week that teammates from a Western Pennsylvania prep team meet across a Major League diamond. Furthermore, the reunion of Pirates second baseman Neil Walker and Cubs catcher Blake Lalli -- on the near-11th anniversary of their memorable day in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League playoffs -- is the stuff of fantasy.
Lalli was a senior pitcher/outfielder that day, when Pine-Richland came back for an 11-7 victory over Indiana, and Walker a freshman catcher. Lalli returned to Pittsburgh as the Cubs' catcher, whereas Walker is entrenched as the Bucs' second baseman and occasional cleanup hitter. Lalli wasn't called up for his Major League debut until last Friday, and his family's immediate reaction was, "You're coming to Pittsburgh!" "Obviously, your dream is to play in the big leagues," Lalli said, "and then to go back to your home town is unbelievable." There's more to the unbelievable factor: In 2004, Walker was the Pirates' first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft, but Lalli went undrafted and, despite having been three years ahead of Walker in high school, entered pro ball two years later, signed in 2006 by the Cubs.