Ask Neil Walker what role he thinks team chemistry has played in the Pirates' 29-27 season, and he'll have this to say:
"There are so many different personalities on our team," Walker said. "You've got the jokesters, you've got the guys that like to sing and dance, and you've got the guys that are kind of hoo-hoo, rah-rah, and you've got the kind of quiet guys that lead by example."
Name names, Neil, won't you please?
"Andrew McCutchen is the guy that kind of keeps everybody real light; he's the guy that's always singing and dancing. Garrett Jones is really funny; Jason Grilli is a guy that likes to sing in the shower. We have a lot of fun, not just when we are on the field but when we're away from it as well. It's pretty unique," he divulged with a laugh.
"Charlie Morton is probably the biggest bookworm and nerd that we've got on the team. And there is nothing wrong with that. He's the most insightful one, and we go to him for knowledge and good book reads."
So where does Walker fit in?
"I am kind of in between," he said. "Sometimes I like to read books or watch movies on the plane. I like to play golf on off-days. We have a dog, so I like to play with the dog when I am home. I am kind of a chameleon, I like to say."
Ever wonder what's on Walker's bookshelf? Wonder no more:
"I have read 'The Hunger Games.' That's the most recent. I like to read some self-help and motivational books. I have really gotten into Civil War books lately. I am reading a book on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War right now," he said.
On a more serious note, Walker offered his thoughts on the No. 1 quality needed to play professional baseball.
"The biggest thing that you need to have, from a mental standpoint, is the ability to forget, because there are 162 games, and you are playing almost every day. So if today is a bad day, you have to forget about it when the game is over, and you have to focus on tomorrow. On the opposite end of that, if you have a really good day, that doesn't carry over, either. You get a lot of opportunities in baseball and you have to go day to day to day. You have to have confidence and focus -- and have the ability to forget," he said.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.