MLB ALL-STAR GAME: ‘SKY’S THE LIMIT’
NEW YORK — Earning a spot on a Major League Baseball All-Star team is a feat most players don’t achieve until well into their careers — if ever. To do so in less than a full season is almost unheard of.
After making his MLB debut with the New York Mets in July of last season, former Santa Barbara Forester and Long Beach State star Jeff McNeil wasted no time in making his name known at the game’s highest level. Having played a total of 139 career games to date — which includes 76 this season — McNeil earned a spot on this year’s National League All-Star team with a major-league best .349 batting average.
The 27-year-old Santa Barbara native is one of three representatives for the Mets in tonight’s game in Cleveland — joining first baseman Pete Alonso and pitcher Jacob deGrom.
Mets veteran third-baseman Todd Frazier had nothing but praise when asked about the rookie’s play thus far.
“For him, the sky’s the limit, he’s doing a heck of a job,” Frazier said. “He’s only got a little over a year in the big leagues and he’s breaking all these records and surpassing all these feats that Hall of Famers have set in the past.
“Kudos to him because he works and he understands that he’s good. He brings positive vibes to the field, and we love that.”
It is an ascension to the top of the MLB ranks that hasn’t come as a complete surprise to McNeil, who has always been extremely confident between the lines, while remaining as humble as can be off the field. Among his many impressive achievements this season is that he has had four, four-hit games, which is tops in the major leagues.
“I’ve always known I can hit for average and play with anyone, but to have success so fast since I got up here, it’s been a little surprising,” McNeil said.
His latest four-hit effort came on Saturday night at Citi Field against the Philadelphia Phillies, where McNeil told the News-Press in the Mets’ clubhouse afterward that he has been locked in from the season’s first pitch.
“I felt really good today,” McNeil said.
“I just got some good pitches and even swung at a few bad ones that just kind of happened to fall in. Driving in (Amed) Rosario, that ball was way outside and I just tried to throw the bat at it and it fell in,” McNeil added, referencing his final at-bat of Saturday’s game when he faced a two-strike count.
Mets manager Mickey Callaway didn’t hold back in Saturday’s post-game press conference when talking about how impressed he is with the Nipomo High graduate’s performance.
“He continues to put unbelievable at-bats together,” Callaway said. “I don’t know what I would do if I was the pitching coach or a pitcher trying to get him out. There seems to be no real good method for that. You just have to try and execute pitches and live with the results.
“A lot of guys out there in the past that I’ve had to deal with, whether it’s pitching or developing a game plan, sometimes you just say ‘throw something that he’s not going to do any damage on, let him get his hit and get the next guy. And that’s probably their approach when they’re thinking about McNeil right now.”
For someone who chose golf over baseball in all but his final year of high school, McNeil’s career as a ballplayer isn’t shaping up too badly.
“Once I’m done playing, I might go and try to do the whole golf thing,” McNeil said. “But it ended up working out and hopefully I can do this baseball thing for a long time, and then I’ll play golf.”