The Phillies will wear a black and gold patch with the number 21 on it tonight, in observance of MLB remembering Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.
Clemente was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and many Puerto Rican players are wearing Clemente’s 21 uniform number to honor their countryman.
Neil Walker will also wear 21 to honor Clemente tonight. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh.
But there wouldn’t have been a Neil Walker if it wasn’t for Clemente.
In addition to his exploits on the field, Clemente was also a very giving person. In late December of 1972, Clemente was preparing to take a plane full of supplies from San Juan to Nicaragua, to deliver to people in need there.
Among those helping Clemente load the plane was Neil Walker’s father, Tom. He had just finished his rookie season with the Expos in 1972, and was playing winter ball with Clemente in Puerto Rico.
The elder Walker was prepared to ride with Clemente to Nicaragua to help distribute the supplies, along with some other teammates, but Clemente told them to stay.
Clemente’s plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone aboard.
Neil Walker was born in Pittsburgh in 1985, and coincidentally was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2004. He played his first seven big league seasons in the Steel City.
He shared his jersey number switch on Twitter today:
Walker is not in tonight starting lineup, but you better believe, if his name is called at any point tonight, he will have Roberto Clemente on his mind.
Outfielder Andrew McCutchen also shared a photo and message with his own No. 21 jersey: