Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen, Christian Walker compete close to home in NLCS vs. Phillies
Oct 15, 2023, 6:15 PM
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA — Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker grew up a Philadelphia sports fan in nearby Norristown, Pennsylvania.
The final out of the 2008 World Series, in which the Phillies ended their 28-year title drought, was Walker’s ringtone in high school, and he remembered classmates wanting to skip class to attend the parade. He watched Ryan Howard, a power-hitting first baseman, break onto the scene with four straight 40-homer seasons.
Starting pitcher Zac Gallen was born and raised on the other side of the Delaware River in New Jersey, but Philadelphia was the nearest large city. Gallen was born in Somerdale, but he went against the grain as a St. Louis Cardinals fan, as Mark McGwire was his guy.
Both players went to Citizens Bank Park to watch Phillies games and now have the chance to compete close to home on the biggest stages of their careers. The Diamondbacks are in Philadelphia gearing up for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series Monday against the Phillies the pennant on the line.
“What I remember the most about that time is just the energy, the energy of the city,” Walker said. “It’s one of the few stadiums and atmospheres you can feel the excitement through the TV. Growing up a Philadelphia fan, the Eagles games kind of have that vibe. You take pride in there being that energy in the stands. I think that’s what I take from it the most is just the overall excitement of the city.”
“I think it’s interesting to start Game 1 in the NLCS at the stadium you grew up coming to as a kid,” Gallen added. “But, I mean, this is about the NLCS. That’s really where my emotions are. Still going to go through my routine. … The external factors, I’ll block them out as best I can.”
Gallen is expecting a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, some of whom got ticket through him and others not. He explained his mom’s side of the family is quite numerous.
Manager Torey Lovullo described Gallen’s fan section as an army of support when he’s faced the Phillies in the past.
That said, the ace said this is a business trip and not a vacation. He said his friends and family have respected that. He’ll be able to visit loved ones after the final out of Game 1.
Zac Gallen grew up in New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia.
He’ll have a good amount of support as the Diamondbacks open the NLCS against the Phillies. pic.twitter.com/UHAhYo5t37
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) October 15, 2023
“The one thing that I know I can say about Zac Gallen is that he is as good as anybody I’ve been around at slowing down the moment and not being too overexcited,” Lovullo said.
“I think he will be excited, as we all are. Once again, I don’t want him to deny the excitement. Embrace it and figure out how to get back in your routine.”
Walker said he wants to harness the energy in what is expected to be as rowdy a ballpark atmosphere as Arizona has played in. The veteran said there is a balance between being excited while not letting the environment impact execution.