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Monday, July 5, 2021

Jeff McNeely played eight pro seasons, made bigs for 21 games, then went into education

Called up to the Red Sox in September 1993, Jeff McNeely compared to The Hartford Courant life in the bigs to life in the minors.

The game was the same, he told The Courant. But there was an important difference.

"The big difference is the mental adjustments and dealing with failure," McNeely told The Courant at season's end. "Here, if you don't get the calls, you can't lose it like you might in the minors. You have to take it as part of the game. It'll bury you if you don't."

For McNeely, that look at the bigs turned out to be the only look of his eight-season pro career. 

He's since gone on to a career concerned with the success of others, of youth in his home state of North Carolina, both as a baseball instructor and as dean of students for a middle school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

McNeely's career began in 1989, taken by the Red Sox in the second round of the draft out of Spartanburg Methodist College.

McNeely started with the Red Sox between the rookie Gulf Coast League and short-season Elmira. He hit .271 in 70 games and stole 21 bases.

He returned to Elmira for 1990 and also played at high-A Winter Haven. He swiped 46 bases on the year. That August, as he hit .373 at Elmira, a Elmira Star-Gazette columnist noted McNeely looked like a big-leaguer, and also noted he turned around an early slump. 

"Jeff did it all on his own," Elmira manager Mike Verdi told The Star-Gazette of McNeely's turnaround. "He's had enough pro at-bats now that he realizes what he's capable of is getting a lot of hits."

McNeely made high-A Lynchburg for 1991, then AA New Britain in 1992. In 1993, he made AAA Pawtucket. That September, he made Boston.

McNeely got into 21 games for the Red Sox that call-up. He hit .297, with six stolen bases. That October, McNeely spoke to The Charlotte Observer about his call-up.

"Everything happened so fast," McNeely told The Observer. "It was like boom - you're on a plane to Boston. I didn't even have a chance to break my cleats in; I had a new batting glove and everything I owned was back in Rhode Island."

McNeely returned to Pawtucket for 1994, then moved to the Cardinals and AAA Louisville for 1995, then to the Angels and AA Midland for 1996. That 1996 campaign marked the end of his career.

McNeely soon returned to North Carolina and entered education and coaching. In 2015, he marked his 18th year with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, also known as CMS. He worked then with discipline and safety.

"Leaving baseball to come to CMS has been so rewarding for me," McNeely told The Observer then. "I have touched the lives of so many."

McNeely has also coached with the Charlotte Megastars youth team, a role he continues in 2021.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,689
Made the Majors:1,256-34.1%-X
Never Made Majors:2,433-65.9%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:522
10+ Seasons in the Minors:309

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