Sunday, July 13, 2014

Neal lends a hand

RailRider will donate $20 to tornado victims for every hit he gets until Triple-A All-Star Game

May 25. 2013 2:02PM

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It’s nothing new to see professional athletes make monetary donations for victims in need.

In fact dozens – if not hundreds – have come out publicly in the last week to help those who were affected by the tornado in Oklahoma.

One of those athletes is right in our backyard in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders outfielder and designated hitter Thomas Neal.

On Tuesday, the day after the natural disaster struck Moore, Okla., Neal said on Twitter that he was going to donate $20 for every hit he racks up until the Triple-A All-Star Game being held in Reno on July 17. If Neal continues his torrid hitting, not only will he be a participant in that game featuring the top players in all of Triple-A baseball but he will have a large amount saved up to send to the area.

“It was just something (I wanted to do) watching everything going on and seeing how many lives are affected,” Neal said. “I’ve been blessed enough to be in the situation to play this game. Through the game I’ve been able to bump up a little money wise and it’s good to give back to people who need help. I’m not married. I don’t have any responsibilities. I just felt like it was the best thing to do.”

Neal entered the weekend leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in batting average hitting at a .333 clip and is third on the team in doubles (eight), and RBIs (18) despite missing more than two weeks with a hamstring injury. He also has 33 hits, which is fourth on the team. Starting today there are 49 games left on the RailRiders’ schedule until the break. On Neal’s current pace, he will get close to 50 hits for his challenge, but he’s not worried about bettering himself.

“At the end of the day no matter however it ends up if I’m successful it’s going to benefit to them,” he said. “Obviously we all want to be successful, that’s my main goal. I think any of us around here want to be successful so why not put a little incentive on it. But that incentive is not going to help me it’s going to help someone else. So hopefully we can do something special and get some more people in on it, get some businesses to match it.”

There was no word if Neal had any businesses to match his donations, but he said that he did have meetings set up.

When Neal started his current campaign he wasn’t aware of any connection he had to the Oklahoma area that was damaged. But once he talked to his mother and explained what he was doing he found out there was something special.

“It was kind of ironic because after I had talked to her about it and she told me that my grandfather was actually born in Oklahoma and he passed away right before I was born, probably a couple months,” Neal said. “Everyone says that I always remind them of him. So maybe that’s just him sending something down, putting it in my head.”

While Neal has been consistent all season, he’s been extremely effective since coming off the D.L. on May 11. Since that time, he’s hit safely in seven of 11 games, which includes four multi-hit contests for a batting average of .324 and an on base percentage hovering just under 50 percent at .490.

“It might look like (I haven’t lost a beat), but I’m still trying to get back into a rhythm right now,” the 25-year-old said. “I’m still trying to feel for my swing. But at the same time I preach to you guys all season about being patient and disciplined with your approach.”

Either way, he appears to not only being on the fast track to helping victims, but with his success this year he may be on the highway to the big leagues if he continues this current pace.

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