Jeff McNeil is with the Mets for at least the next four years. While there’s an argument to be made that his $50 million extension is team-friendly, it’s hardly insignificant. The Flying Squirrel himself definitely agrees now that his family is set up for multiple generations.
It’s easy to forget how much of a grind baseball is for players who aren’t viewed as the game’s elite. Each summer, the MLB Draft happens and we hear about the multi-million dollar deals the first-round selections agree to. Each winter, we see the ridiculous contracts handed out to baseball’s most coveted available players.
But many are like McNeil when the Mets drafted him in 2013. The 2022 batting champion had to wait until the 12th round (356th overall pick) for his name to get called. He earned a $100,000 signing bonus before starting working through the minors.
Now, don’t get me wrong — that’s a lot of money. But for someone who wasn’t expected to reach the big leagues and get another payday, it’s not that much. It was a long journey for McNeil before landing with the Mets on July 24, 2018. He was grinding in the minors for five-plus years before getting the call.
McNeil hit wherever he went, but some bumps in the road were included. His 2016 season lasted just three games because of a double sports hernia and a hip labrum tear. And if there’s anything we know about the minor leagues, it’s that players don’t get paid handsomely.
To make ends meet, many players must find work in the offseason in addition to training. McNeil was no different, and he detailed some of the odds jobs he took during his journey through the minor leagues with the Mets’d Up Podcast:
It was definitely a tough time in the minor leagues. I had a bunch of injuries, worked some pretty odd jobs trying to make some money. My wife, who’s been super supportive through this whole thing, she was fantastic. She was kind of the breadwinner in our family, providing for us, and kind of paying the rent for me to be able to go out there and chase my dreams.
Definitely worked some odd jobs. Worked at Dick’s Sporting Goods, worked at a gym, worked landscape, I did it all trying to make some money. To see that all kind of pay off and get this contract, it means a lot. It means a lot to my whole family.
They touched on a bunch of topics in a 12-minute interview, which you can watch in its entirety here.
This is a perfect example of a “One of us!” moment. I can remember working odd jobs to make money while also trying to do something else that I actually wanted to do. I love hearing this kind of stuff because it humanizes them. Despite being professional athletes, these guys are just like us.
McNeil’s days of working odd jobs out of necessity are over. It’s probably over for the next couple of generations of McNeils, too.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.