Tag Archives: DJ Neal

Around The Horn, Updates On The @GBSARays Alumni

MiLB

Readers of this blog are aware that I have had chats with former players in the Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy Rays program.  Those players are currently in the Minor Leagues and are each at different levels of their professional baseball journey.  I have kept up with these young men and would like to report on their current status.

Armond Upshaw, Auburn Doubledays (New York-Penn League):  .167/ .335/ .210 with 5 RBI, 18 Runs Scored, 8/11 in stolen bases and 27 BB

DJ Neal, GCL Blue Jays (Gulf Coast League):  .263/ .311/ .360 with 9 RBI, 16 Runs Scored, 7/9 in stolen bases and 6 BB

Mason Davis, Jupiter Hammerheads (Florida State League):  .267/ .326/ .377 with 22 RBI, 37 Runs Scored, 11/14 in stolen bases and 14 BB

Jacquez Williams, Arizona League Padres (Arizona League):  .226/ .352/ .434 with 18 RBI, 17 Runs Scored, 1/1 in stolen bases and 19 BB

 

There are three other alums who I have not caught up with yet for a chat.  They are:

Malik Jones, Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League):  0-1 with a 2.53 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and .132 BAA in 10.2 IP

Akil Baddoo, Elizabethton Twins (Appalachian League):  .299/ .398/ .469 with 18 RBI and is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak

Jordan Scott, GCL Yankees West (Gulf Coast League):  .233/ .367/ .489 with 17 RBI

 

Of course, you can visit the blog each day for updates on my favorite GBSA Rays alum, Cedric Mullins of the Bowie Baysox (Eastern League).

My Conversation with Washington Nationals’ Prospect and @GBSARays Alumni @ArmondUpshaw7

 

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Today I highlight Washington Nationals prospect Armond Upshaw, a centerfielder for the Auburn Doubledays (Class-A Short).

Previously I posted an article that introduced readers to several players from the Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy’s Triton Rays travel program.  I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with DJ Neal of the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays (Toronto) and recently I had the pleasure of a conversation with Upshaw.

As of today (7/13), Upshaw is slashing .134/ .318/ .179 with 2 RBI, 2 extra-base hits and 13 walks in 18 games for the Doubledays.  He has stolen 4 bases in 7 attempts.  The National’s organization likes Upshaw’s speed both on the bases and in the field defensively and I am certain that factored into the team selecting him in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

Here is our conversation:

When did you first realize that you had a chance to play professionally?  “I think I first realized my senior year of high school when I began to get draft questionnaires and a few scouts started talking to me.”

Is there an aspect of pro ball that you didn’t expect?  “I think I had a pretty good idea of everything esp(ecially) with having guys like Cedric Mullins (Class-AA Bowie Baysox, Baltimore) and Mason Davis (Class-A High Jupiter Hammerheads, Miami) already going through the process.”

What is the difference between the Gulf Coast League and Short Season A ball?  “I think the biggest difference is actually playing in a stadium with fans.  Also playing night games versus waking up early and playing at noon.  Also you see more mature pitching and guys able to throw more pitches for strikes.”

What adjustments, if any, are you making in your game?  “Just mainly trying not to miss my fastball when I get it and defensively I play deeper than I did in the GCL because guys are stronger.”

How did playing for @GBSARays prepare you for all of this?  “It did a great deal of preparation, being able to play with guys of pro caliber in travel ball. It was very competitive, we challenged each other every day and it helped bring the best out of everyone one the team.”

Who had had the biggest influence in your life?  “Definitely my parents, they pushed and believed in me like no other, even when I didn’t myself.”

Is there anyone on the Doubledays who has taken you under their wing as it were and is mentoring you?  “My hitting coach Mark Harris, who has coached newly switch hitters like Billy Burns (Kansas City), works with me everyday and also our hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich.  Also my manger Jared Head knows a lot about the game (and) he feeds me information.”

How do you balance the game and the business of the game?  “I just go out and try to control the things I can which are effort and intent.”

Is there anything you would have done differently in your career so far? “I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.  I may have (taken) a more difficult route but it’s made me the player and person I am today.”

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Armond Upshaw and the glimpse into life as a professional baseball player.  I want to thank this young man for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish him nothing but future success.  I will say that based on my conversations with both Upshaw and DJ Neal, The Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy is living up to it’s stated mission: Educating, motivating, and inspiring young athletes to build foundations for success on and off the field.  Those two young men, as well as Cedric Mullins, are certainly the embodiment of that mission.  GBSA is doing wonderful work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Conversation With Toronto Blue Jays Prospect and @GBSARays Alumni @thereal_djneal

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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.

Spotlighting @cedmull30 Baseball “Brothers” from the @GBSARays

TR Georgia

It is no secret that I am a fan of Bowie Baysox (Class-AA, Baltimore Orioles) outfielder Cedric Mullins.  Anyone who has followed me here on my blog or on @BabyBirdland has seen that I am following Mullin’s progress through the Orioles’ Minor League system and have penned a few articles about him.  He is a favorite of the @BabyBirdland editor, Josh Michael, as well and has many mentions in both the round-ups and spotlights on that site.

Mullin’s skill, ability, baseball IQ and work ethic are what one looks for in a player.  Yes, most of it is hid God-given ability and personal drive but it was molded by a fine organization as well.

My research on Mullins revealed that he is a product of the Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy’s (Atlanta, Georgia) Triton Rays Travel Program.  The mission of the program is to “help young men in their development and academic journey thru (sic) baseball”.  They do that as evidenced by Mullins; he is not the only player the program has seen make it to professional baseball, however.  Currently there are 5 GBSA Rays in the Minor Leagues and 3 more were drafted in the recently concluded 2017 MLB Draft.

I would like to shine a light on these young men.  While they may not have the same skill set or ability as Mullins: each is his own man with skills and abilities unique to him individually.  They all share a basic foundation shaped in the same program and as such, I feel, are players you can feel good about rooting for if you like what Mullins brings to the table.

Drafted in 2017 were: Malik Jones, 23rd round by Oakland, D.J. Neal, 26th round by Toronto and Brent Burgess, 38th round by New York (AL).  To the best of my knowledge, only D.J. Neal has signed so far.

Currently in the Minor Leagues are:

  • Akil Baddoo, RF: drafted in the 2016 Lottery Round (74th pick) by the Minnesota Twins.  2016 GCL (Gulf Coast League) Twins slash line .178/ .299/ .271 with 15 RBI and 2 HR
  • Monte’ Reese, RHP: free agent signee with Atlanta Braves.  2015 GCL Braves line 0-0 record in 1.1 IP, 6.75 ERA and .186 BA against.  Released by the Braves in March of 2016.
  • Jordan Scott, CF: drafted in 14th round of 2016 (428th pick) by the New York Yankees.  2016 GCL Yankees slash line .209/ .305/ .344 with 17 RBI and 5 HR
  • Armond Upshaw, CF: drafted in the 11th round of 2016 draft (334th pick) by the Washington Nationals.  2016 GCL Nationals slash line .325/ .391/ .400 with 2 RBI.
  • Jaquez Williams, 1B: drafted in the 18th round of 2016 draft by the San Diego Padres.  2016 GCL Padres slash line .169/ .245/ .303 with 12 RBI and 1 HR

All of these young men are awaiting assignments either to return to the Gulf Coast League or to move up to Short-Season Rookie Ball and that is why I only have their 2016 stats.  I will update their assignments once rosters are posted.

It is worth following these young men based on their baseball pedigree alone.  Baseball fans would be wise to be aware of these young men so that once they make their mark no one is wondering, “Where’d they come from?”.  Remember, you heard about them here first.

**UPDATE (6/21/2017)**  Armond Upshaw was moved up and is currently on the roster of the Auburn Doubledays (Nationals) of the New York-Penn League (Class-A Short).  See his stats HERE.

**UPDATE (6/26/2017)**

Akil Baddoo will play for the GCL Twins again in 2017.  The season begins on 6/26 against the GCL Orioles.  See his stats HERE.

Jordan Scott will play for the GCL Yankees East in 2017.  The season begins on 6/26 against the GCL Braves.  See his stats HERE

DJ Neal will play for the GCL Blue Jays in 2017.  The season begins on 6/26 against the GCL Tigers West.  See his stats HERE  

Jaquez Williams will play for the Arizona League Padres again in 2017.  The season started on 6/25 against the AZL White Sox.  See his stats HERE.

**UPDATE (7/11/2017)**

Malik Jones is playing for the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League.  See his stats HERE

 

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