Neal strives to get better every day
Deep into the 2012 season, outfielder Thomas Neal can be found in a great place. After battling injury and putting up less-than-expected numbers at the plate, Neal took a step back to reevaluate his approach.
In June of 2011, the young outfielder wasn’t even aware his name was in the drawing to be traded. He then attended spring training earlier this year with the Indians and then opened the season at Double-A Akron where he has made his home ever since.
“The adjustment has been pretty good and the guys have been great,” said Neal about being traded to the Indians. “In the beginning it was kind of weird because you don’t know anyone, but I got to know a lot more people during spring training. It was fun being up there and learning how everything works at the big league level.”
As of late, Neal has been a driving force at the plate for the Aeros, but it didn’t quite start that way. At the beginning of the season in April, Neal finished out the month with a less-than-impressive .278 batting average and .694 OPS.
But over the last ten games Neal’s adjustments have really shined as he it hitting .395 and all nine of his home runs and 32 of his 45 RBI have come since June 1st. He was named a Mid-Season All-Star and recently named Player of the Week in the Eastern League.
“The biggest thing is having a game plan," said Neal. "There are the little things: not lunging at the ball, using my hands better, and using my legs.”
The young outfielder has been no stranger to the disabled list. Last year with the Giants, Neal found himself battling to stay healthy. As the trade went down, he was sitting out for a palm injury that greatly affected his ability to drive the ball.
Then Neal suffered an injury to his right shoulder that he now keeps a watchful eye on. Before and after each game he can be found in the clubhouse strapped with ice, but he doesn’t feel the injury has affected his ability to connect with the ball.
“I’ve never had any problems with it hitting," said Neal. "I think the thing for me is making sure I stay on the maintenance. I make sure that I keep up with the exercises to keep it strong. The only problem I may run into is it getting tight. I get massage therapy at least once or twice a week to keep it lose.”
On the social side of things, Neal has become quite popular in the Twitter world as @TDaddyNeal. His timeline is filled with team antics, peanut butter M&M’s, but notably his faith and dedication to baseball. In a recent edition of Akron Aeros Live he tweeted "the best part of playing is being able to find new ways to get better everyday.”
“That's what gets me going every single day,” said Neal of the tweet. “There’s no better feeling than knowing you might be good at one thing, but can you find a way to get better? Even if just a little.”
The Aeros lead their division in the Eastern League by 8 ½ games, and as they come closer to playoffs Neal continues to strive for the greatness to lead his team to a championship.
“The rewards I feel inside when I find myself getting better," said Neal, "that's what really drives me and makes me want to become a better player every single day."