PITTSBURGH -- Eleven years ago, Blake Lalli was a senior pitcher for Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia, Pa., and current Pirates second baseman Neil Walker was his freshman catcher. They were playing Indiana in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League playoffs, and rallied for an 11-7 win.
Lalli pitched the whole game -- and says not all of the seven runs he gave up were earned -- and remembers Walker being a very good catcher.
On Saturday, Lalli was behind the plate for the Cubs, making his second big league start and first in his home state. He expects lots of friends and family on hand, even if he only had to leave 16 tickets.
"It's cool," Lalli said about starting at PNC Park. "[Friday] night was neat, too. Once the [public address] announcer started talking, it was cool hearing the same voice that you heard as a kid."
Walker was drafted out of high school in 2004 as a catcher.
"He was real good -- good enough to go in the first round as a catcher," Lalli said. "He was always good, had always been good. I only saw him catch and never saw him do anything else."
Lalli was never drafted. He played some college ball at Gardner-Webb University, and signed with the Cubs in May 2006 as a non-drafted free agent.
"I always wanted to play, and I thought I was talented enough," Lalli said. "I always said I was going to keep going until somebody took the uniform away from me."
He has kept his pitching arm loose in the Minor Leagues, making 17 appearances when the team has run out of pitchers.
"It's not really pitching any more," Lalli said, laughing. "It's just trying to put it in an area and hope they get themselves out."