Mets INF Jeff McNeil took an unconventional road to the Major Leagues.
When he was young, he was walking around swinging a club -- not a bat. Golf was the first sport that he was introduced to, as baseball came after. He would go on to play in tournaments across the country, including the US Junior Amateur.
But McNeil was forced to make a choice once he reached high school: It was either golf or baseball. The 26-year-old admitted golf became his sport, mainly because his team was filled with his friends.
"One of the reasons I played golf instead of baseball was because our team was so good," McNeil told SNY in an exclusive interview out in his home California. "I mean, all my friends played so I wanted to be out there with them."
McNeil spent three seasons on Nipomo High School's golf team before switching back to baseball his senior year. And after a tremendous season, he initially committed to Cal State Northridge. However, Northridge's head coach left, so McNeil changed his mind and went to a baseball powerhouse in Long Beach State.
"It's been long, it's been hard. But I wouldn't change it, it's been amazing," McNeil said. "Playing college baseball -- it's not easy. And then going all the way through the minor leagues. It's been a grind."
McNeil finally cracked the big leagues last year on July 24, 2018, and made the best of first impressions with a base knock on the first pitch he saw. From there, he would have an impressive season that puts him in position to make the Opening Day roster when camp breaks in Port St. Lucie this March.
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has brought in more infielders this offseason, including veteran 2B Robinson Cano who booted him from the position. But the Mets didn't trade McNeil despite some speculation they would, and instead, Van Wagenen views him as a super utility player that could see some outfield work.
No matter where he is playing, McNeil is ready for whatever the 2019 season has in store for him.
"I'm going to do the same thing I did last year," he said. "I'm not going to change anything. Just go out there and play hard."