I first wrote about Toronto Blue Jay prospect Dexter “DJ” Neal a few weeks ago in a piece I did which featured Cedric Mullins’ (Class-AA Bowie Baysox) baseball “brothers” from the Triton Rays of the Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy. You can read it HERE.
Neal, a rightfielder, was drafted in the 26th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He previously was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves but chose to attend the University of South Carolina Sumter instead.
Upon signing with the Blue Jays Neal was assigned to the Gulf Coast League where he is slashing .345/ .424/ .448 in 8 games with 1 double, 1 triple, 2 stolen bases and 6 RBI in 29 plate appearances. He has walked twice while striking out 6 times. Neal has gotten a hit in 7 of his 8 games so far this season.
I recently had a conversation with Neal about his baseball life and his experiences so far in professional baseball. What follows is that conversation.
How would you describe your baseball journey so far? “My journey (has had) many ups and downs and with those ups and downs (has) come a lot of fun. I treat it as a business and allow myself to have fun…while learning and getting better.”
When did you realize that you had the chance to play professionally? “My sophomore year of high school…I realized I had a chance to get drafted so I took my time (and) started to work.”
How did you find out the Blue Jays drafted you? “I got a call from my area scout and a video with the selection.”
What was your “wow, this really is pro baseball” moment? “I was actually in the middle of a conversation with my father and he (area scout) called and everything seemed as if it had stopped. The words that he (said) just hit me. I was very proud but just speechless at the same time.”
What has been the most difficult part of pro baseball so far? “Consistency. Pitchers are smarter now so I must get a consistent swing and solid approach.”
How did playing for @GBSA prepare you for this? “Opportunities as well as competition. We faced some of the better teams in the country which prepare(d) me for pitchers with hard velocity and good off speed…”
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? “My mother and father push(ed) me growing up and (made) sure I never stopped until I reached my dream…My grandmother… I told myself that I would do (what) she wanted me to do and do what she had predicted… Before my grandma died, she would catch every game with my grandfather as well so they (had) a huge influence in my life.”
How do you keep your life grounded and balanced? “I don’t think about it too much I just live,… enjoy my family, and take care of the important things. The rest falls (into place).”
I would like to thank DJ for taking the time to answer my questions and wish him much success as he continues on his journey both in baseball and in life.