Neff a natural catcher, future police officer

By Gloria Gonzalez

The smell of fresh-cut grass and red brick dirt, the feel of a
leather glove and the smoothness of that pearl white ball are what
drive senior catcher Mike Neff’s passion for baseball.

Neff was pivotal behind the plate this season, earning a
fielding percentage of .990, which was the fourth-best percentage
among teammates who played a minimum of 25 games.

Neff’s father has been his biggest inspiration for playing baseball
due to his support and passion for the sport.

“My dad has always been my No. 1 fan,” said Neff. “He has always
pushed me to play and practice and when I was little he used to
take me to the park to practice everyday.”

Neff has been able to experience playing almost every position,
but to him catching has been the most exciting because he gets to
be involved with every play and every part of the game.

“It feels like second nature when I’m out there catching,” said
Neff.

Head coach Randy Betten said despite being the backup catcher
all year and splitting time with junior Jenzen Torres, Neff has
still been a very positive and essential part of the team.

“He’s been a great plus to our team,” said Betten. “He’s an
outstanding individual in the dugout, and he’s just done everything
great for us.”

Neff is a communication student with an emphasis in personal
relations and has always done well both in and out of the
classroom.

Betten said Neff has been exceptional as a student-athlete and
has never had to question him about missing class or turning an
assignment in on time.

“He’s always responsible about going to class,” said Betten.
“He’s also a huge supporter of telling other guys that they should
attend class if they haven’t, so he’s been great.”

Neff’s work ethic has been outstanding and is greatly
appreciated by Betten.

Torres said he would describe Neff as the perfect
teammate.

“He’s a team guy,” said Torres. “He doesn’t complain when he
doesn’t play. Whenever he gets in, he does his job and he does
everything to the best of his abilities. There are just not enough
good things to say about Mike.”

In spite of the fact that Torres was the starting catcher, Neff
and Torres were still the best of friends and never had any issues
with the situation.

To Neff the baseball team’s success this season came from the
form and structure of the coaching staff.

“The coaching staff this year is a lot different,” said Neff.
“They get along, which is where the main difference came from last
year, since there was a lot of tension with last year’s coaching
staff.

“Coach Randy is a great guy and he always wants what’s best for
his players and for his team.”

Neff’s parents and his girlfriend have been very supportive of
his baseball career and attend all of his games.

Neff attended Etiwanda High School, where he was on the varsity
baseball team all four years. However, he did not emphasize being
only a catcher until his senior year, where he earned Second-Team
All-League honors.

He continued his baseball career as a catcher at Riverside
Community College, but redshirted his first year due to a surplus
of team members.

Neff then transferred to Cal Poly Pomona in 2009, and this
decision came from wanting to stay close to home.

His experiences as a student-athlete at Cal Poly Pomona have
been unforgettable for Neff, especially placing second in the CCAA
Championship tournament and finishing as the NCAA Div. II West
Region runner-up.

Losing to Sonoma State in the west region finale was frustrating
for Neff, but he said he could not be more proud of his team.

“Everyone competed and tried their best,” said Neff. “No one
quit or gave up, and that’s just the way the game goes sometimes.
One day you can win, 20-0, and the next day, you can lose, 20-0.
That’s just how the game works.”

After graduation from Cal Poly Pomona Neff’s goal is to attend
the Police Academy and become a police officer, like his father
before him.

“I really want to prevent anything bad from happening to future
victims,” said Neff. “I don’t necessarily want that image of a
police officer in a cop car. Instead, I would love to be undercover
and stop crime from happening.”

Neff’s favorite baseball team is the New York Yankees and his
favorite professional athlete is the one and only Derek Jeter.

When Neff is not out practicing and playing baseball, he is out
playing hockey, ice-skating and hanging out with his
girlfriend.

Neff said that if he could go back and change his sports career
from baseball to hockey he wouldn’t because he truly loves
baseball, but a part of him still wishes he could have been a
college hockey player as well.

Mike Neff

Marcelo Villa

Mike Neff

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