Hard work pays off for Aeros’ Neal
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron Aeros outfielder Thomas Neal was as hot as the late-June Akron weather, spreading extra-base hits around Canal Park. His secret?
“Peanut butter M&M’s,” he said. “I think they’ve done a pretty good job so far. Peanut butter M&M’s and a glass of chocolate milk — that’s the way to go.”
If that were all it took to become an all-star, ballplayers everywhere would be skipping the weight room and heading straight to the candy dish. The real reason behind Neal’s offensive surge (six home runs in June and an eight-game hitting streak going into this week) is less novel but more likely to yield results.
“It’s just a matter of putting in the work, working with our hitting coach [Rouglas Odor],” said Neal. “He started helping me get my legs back into my swing, which I kind of got away from. I just went back to the basics and things turned around for me.”
Neal, 24, is one of four Aeros selected to participate in the Eastern League All-Star Game. He’ll join first baseman Chun Chen and pitchers Steven Wright and Kyle Landis on the Western Division team. The All-Star Game is July 11 in Reading, Pa.
“It’s really exciting and humbling at the same time,” he said.
Neal is active on his Twitter account, @TdaddyNeal, which he finds is a good way to keep in touch with fans.
“I think it’s a pretty cool way to interact, because once I get to the ballpark and start doing all the baseball stuff, it’s pretty tough to communicate,” he said. “Right before the game when I stretch, I really want to put myself in a mental zone. Twitter’s a way to thank fans for all their support.”
Related to a Duke: Infielder Ryan Rohlinger, 28, was promoted to Triple-A Columbus June 30. For the Aeros, Rohlinger batted .227, with four homers and 23 runs batted in.
Rohlinger, who has major-league experience with the San Francisco Giants, is from a baseball family. His father and grandfather played the game, and one of his brothers is currently playing ball in college. And his uncle, Willie Mueller, pitched against that surprising Cleveland Indians team of the late 1980s that came from nowhere to win the division.
Those Indians, unfortunately, were fictional. Mueller, a former pitcher for the Brewers, was cast as New York Yankees closer “The Duke” in the movie “Major League.” Most of the baseball action was filmed inside Milwaukee County Stadium.
“As a family, we went down to Milwaukee, where I’m from, and we got to see him on the mound and pitch,” said Rohlinger.
In the movie, the Yankees do not come out on the winning end.
“I remember being kind of upset, because his team lost,” said Rohlinger. “I didn’t realize it was part of the movie. But it was fun being down there.”
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