Meet the New York Mets! Let’s start off with a guy who didn’t even play high school baseball until his senior season! Growing up in sunny Santa Barbara, California, Jeff McNeil excelled in basketball, baseball, and golf growing up, but was forced to choose between baseball and golf as spring sports once in high school.
The golf team at his high school was much more “stacked” than the baseball team, and for this reason, McNeil chose to hit the links, competing in the same age group as PGA stars of today Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, and Jordan Speith. McNeil in fact qualified and competed in the prestigious 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur, but failed to make the cut to advance to the tournament's final day.
NY Mets player Jeff McNeil didn't play for his high school baseball team until his senior year!
This exposure led McNeil to believe he would receive golf scholarships, but with this being his first real success in the sport on a high level, he soon found out that nearly all division one schools had already filled their recruiting classes. With nothing more to gain in golf, McNeil finally joined his high school baseball team his senior year to follow, and thrived on the diamond, hitting an outstanding .446. McNeil would go on to secure his division one commitment to Long Beach State and play summer ball in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .301.
McNeil’s continued success at the division one level would see him eventually go on to be drafted by the Mets in the 12th round of the 2013 MLB draft. After getting banged up, McNeil lost time in 2016 and 2017 but overall had a very successful minor league baseball career, rarely hitting below a .300 mark when healthy. McNeil finally made his MLB debut in the summer of 2018 and would finish that season hitting .329 in 225 at-bats.
Some fun facts about Jeff McNeil. McNeil uses a knobless bat. From my understanding, McNeil uses this bat because it is longer, but also allows him to comfortably choke up, therefore allowing him to use a bat with at least the feel of having a bigger barrel. The bat was first given to him in the minors by hitting coach Lamar Johnson and McNeil simply says that he loves it because “it just feels lighter because it’s so balanced.”
He’s been referred to as a “maniac” by commentators, and adorns the nickname “Flying Squirrel.” He resembles the actor Owen Wilson and recently imitated his wedding crashers dance following a two-home run performance after being virally heckled by a fan for needing to work out his legs.
And for those who want to fall down a rabbit hole, simply look up “Jeff McNeil pet” on YouTube and head over to SNY to watch a countdown video he and his wife put together of how oddly well their dog Willow and cat Mac get along.