NYfansonly: What was your favorite team growing up?
Neal: My favorite team growing up was the Cincinnati Reds. I still follow the Reds and obviously my favorite player on the current group of Reds is Ken Griffey Jr.
NYfansonly: Who was your favorite player growing up as kid?
Neal: I grew up idolizing Nolan Ryan. I loved the way he pitched and I would love nothing more than to play as many years as he did and have as much success as he had. I don't have the velocity he had. I am more of a control pitcher.
NYfansonly: What pitcher do you compare yourself to in the Majors, or model yourself after?
Neal: I guess I model myself after Tom Glavine of the Braves. Glavine is also left-handed. He picks the corners, changes speeds, and mixes it up real well. That is something I strive to do.
NYfansonly: What did you work on in the Florida Instructional League and what are your best pitches?
Neal: I essentially worked on being more consistent, getting better control of my three pitches. I have three really good pitches: fastball, curveball, and change-up. The change-up is my best pitch. I can throw it with good movement and location and I believe this pitch will help me be successful. A good change-up is one of the hardest pitches to hit in baseball.
NYfansonly: When do you feel like you will make the Majors and what are the things you have to improve before being called up?
Neal: Being called up to the Majors as soon as possible would be nice but realistically I think three years. Three years is a realistic goal for me. In order to be ready for the Majors, I need to be more consistent and be able to throw my curveball with better command. I occassionally get rattled but I feel like I have a pretty good presence on the mound to be able to handle the pressure so in that sense, I feel like I am progressing.
NYfansonly: At what point did you start thinking about baseball as a profession?
Neal: I started thinking about being a pro baseball player when I was a little kid. I told my parents when I was kid that I want to be a professional baseball player and they kind of laughed and said "yeah sure". But as I got older and started playing well, they backed me up 100% of the time and I have really appreciated it.
NYfansonly: How do you feel, as a minor leaguer in hopes of finding a steady job with the big league club, when the team makes trades or free-agent signings of players that employ your position? Is it a distraction?
Neal: No, it isn't really a distraction. They have to do what is best for the ball club right now. It doesn't bother me much because I know I can only control my play and I have to prove to them what I can do and how I will help the club.
NYfansonly: What are the difference between each level of minor league baseball?
Neal: Well so far I have just been in the Gulf Coast league and in the Appalachian League at Kingsport. There wasn't that much of a difference except there were a lot more older players when I was at Kingsport...a bunch more college ballplayers. You could tell they had been around longer and they could really play.
NYfansonly: What has the minor league experience thus far been like for you?
Neal: It has been a lot of fun up to this point and I can only see it getting better. The best part as a pitcher is that you are the one that controls the game, whether or not you win or lose the game. The one thing I haven't enjoyed too much thus far was the time I spent in the Gulf Coast. Most of the games are day games starting around noon and it isn't easy playing in the sun all of the time.
NYfansonly: Where do you envision seeing yourself in five years? With the Mets, other teams, etc? And do you think you could handle the pressure of playing in New York?
Neal: Really I see myself playing with the Mets in Shea Stadium...and being successful there. I have been to Shea Stadium only once, to sign my contract. I come from the country in Indiana and I realize New York would be a big change for me but I believe I could adjust pretty easily. I've always heard that New York fans will either love you or hate you. All I can do is bust my butt, be nice to people, not make any enemies, and things will take care of themselves.
NYfansonly: Who impressed you the most in the Florida Instructional League?
Neal: Without a doubt Nick Maness and Patrick Strange impressed me the most. They both have unbelievable poise...and real talent!
NYfansonly: Who were your best friends at Kingsport? What other players have you grown close to in the Mets' system?
Neal: My best friends at Kingsport are Chad Bowen, Ross Peeples, and Brandon Wilson...with Bowen being my closest friend. I have also become friends with Kenny Chenard.
NYfansonly: Of all of the prospects you have played with or against, who do you think has the most promise?
Neal: My toughest "out" as a pitcher has been Alejandro Machado, 2B in the Braves organization. Everytime I had two strikes on him he always seemed to find a way to get the bat on the ball...get a base hit. He always seems to make things happen. Josh Beckett (Florida Marlins top pitching prospect) is the best I have seen or played against. He is going to be a very special player.
NYfansonly: Can you explain to us the extent of your injuries in the past?
Neal: I developed tendinitis in my elbow, probably from too much throwing. I began to rest more and started a rehab program that included ice and stem, and using stress balls to strengthen the elbow area up. It feels real good now.
NYfansonly: Your control greatly improved in 2000 compared to your 1999 season. What was the difference for you?
Neal: I attribute it to the constant work. The coaches are always evaluating me, what I do, helping me work on my release points, and how to throw the ball. With all of this work, I think I am only going to get better.
NYfansonly: What do you think of Edgar Alfonzo (Brooklyn Cyclones manager for 2001 and Neal's manager at Kingsport last season) as a manager? Could he be a major league manager?
Neal: I have never spent enough time around Major League coaches but I think he can do it. Coach definitely has enough knowledge of the game. He's a nice guy, pushes the players, but he is still laid back enough to let you do what you have to do. I really enjoyed playing for him last summer.
NYfansonly: Do you follow the Mets on a regular basis and who is your favorite player on the Mets?
Neal: I always check out how the Mets are doing. I check the box scores, the standings, and I keep an eye out for what transactions they are making. Right now my favorite player on the Mets in Al Leiter. Again, we are both lefties. I like to see how he handles certain situations in the games and how he handles himself with the fans and the media. I love to watch the way he pitches...it helps me to learn how to get guys out.
NYfansonly: Neal, what are your goals for 2001?
Neal: My main goal is to stay healthy and have a good year. I want to start the year off in Capital City, make the All-Star team, and hopefully get a call up to St. Lucie at some point this season.
Again, NYfansonly.com would like to thank Neal Musser for taking some time out to answer some of our questions. If any of you have any particular questions you would like answered, you can email them to email@example.com and we'll see if Neal will oblige us. NYfansonly.com will update everyone on Neal's status throughout the season.
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