'I’m looking forward to it': Neto set to make home debut

April 20th, 2023

In a recent interview with MLB.com at Yankee Stadium, shortstop , the second-best prospect in the Angels' organization according to MLB Pipeline, answered a wide range of topics from being called up to the big leagues to what his college baseball coach, Justin Haire, means to him.

MLB.com: You are the first player from the 2022 MLB Draft to be promoted to the big leagues. When you received the news that you were going to The Show, what was your reaction?

Neto: I was kind of shocked a little bit. I didn’t think it was going to be that early. I got off to a really hot start [with Double-A Rocket City]. Getting pulled out of the game early and hearing that news, there are no words to describe it. It was awesome.

MLB.com: What is it about your game where the Angels said, “We want you now."?

Neto: I think it’s the player I bring to the table. I go out there and I do the little things right. I work hard. I try to do everything 100 percent and help the team win. The biggest thing I would say is, it’s not only about me; it’s more about the team effort. I could care less how I do in the game as long as it comes out a win. That’s all that matters to me. I think that was one of the biggest things that made the Angels’ decision easier. Coming into this year with Shohei Ohtani set to be a free agent and [Mike] Trout [not being in the postseason since 2014], being on this team has motivated me to get those guys to the playoffs and keep them here.

MLB.com: What do Trout and Ohtani mean to you?

Neto: They mean a lot to me. I grew up watching them. They are the two best players in the game, and to finally be able to share a locker room and dugout with them, it’s an honor. Any kid would love to go out there and be with them. It’s a dream come true.

MLB.com: You are new on the team. Who has shown you the ropes?

Neto: Everybody has put in their [two cents], showing me around and things like that. But I feel like my locker mate, Logan O’Hoppe, has definitely shown me a lot. He is keeping me cool, calm and making it more comfortable for me as a rookie like he is himself. He is showing me the way to do things around here the right way.

MLB.com: Your first big league series was at Fenway Park against the Red Sox and you followed that up by going to Yankee Stadium to play the Yankees. How have you kept calm in those big cities?

Neto: Adversity fuels the fire. Being able to play in Fenway -- a prestigious ballpark; being able to go to Yankee Stadium -- who wouldn’t want to start their career in those two ballparks? For them to be in back-to-back series, it’s an honor. Like I said, once those lights get bright, I shine more. I’ve been able to keep my cool at the plate and on the field. I’m not worrying about the crowd or anything; just keep doing what I have to do in between those lines. That’s why I’m here.

MLB.com: You are in the big leagues a year after you were drafted. What advice would you give to kids following in your footsteps?

Neto: I would tell them anything is possible. When I first came out of high school, I didn’t think [I would be playing in the big leagues]. I was hurt in high school and I kept getting overlooked. [But I was] able to go to college, prove people wrong and have that underdog mentality that got me here. I was able to fly through the system [in professional baseball], kept working and never gave up. I’m here now, but I have to keep going and keep pushing forward.

MLB.com: It was at Campbell University where scouts saw you as a prospect. What turned it around at the school?

Neto: It was the entire coaching staff, all my teammates, everybody on the academic side. Just being able to keep my head straight with school and baseball. … So when I stepped foot in between those lines, it was natural for me. I was able to let my talent speak for itself.

MLB.com: A few minutes ago, I heard you talk to other media members about your college coach, Justin Haire. He must mean a lot to you.

Neto: He was my father after I moved to North Carolina. He treated me like his own son. He played a big role in my life. He was a player’s coach. I was able to go to a small town in North Carolina and grow as a player. He developed me as a player. I couldn’t say more thank yous to him. If it wasn’t for him and the coaching staff that we had at school, I wouldn’t be in this spot that I am right now. That’s why every moment that I get to thank him, I show him around every stadium [via my iPhone]. That’s his dream come true just like it is mine. Being able to share with him is awesome.

MLB.com: You had Haire see Fenway as well?

Neto: I did. He can’t be here right now because he has his own season at school right now. I know when that season is over, he is going to come out here and be the biggest fan he can. I’m going to treat him like he treated me. When I was at school, I was like a king. I’m going to bring him out on the field, meet my teammates, meet everybody, watch baseball at the big league level. That was my promise to him. I’m going to give him my word.

MLB.com: Tell me how much you are looking forward to playing in Angel Stadium starting Friday?

Neto: I’m looking forward to it. I got a little taste of it when I was in the exhibition games in March against the Dodgers. I know more is at stake. Now that the regular season has started, it’s just another day, another ballpark. It just so happens to be our ballpark. I’ll be able to go out there, put on that white uniform, put on those white pants, step foot between those white lines, look around and enjoy the stadium as I’ve been doing with every other stadium.