Major League Baseball

Ben Verlander's 'Flippin' Bats' welcomes New York Mets' Jeff McNeil

April 21

"Flippin' Bats" is rolling like the Red Sox home run cart.

If you don't know what that means, Ben Verlander will tell you in his top storylines from baseball this week. After that, Ben welcomed New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil to talk the National League East, McNeil's nickname and even a little golf.

In 2020, McNeil posted a batting average of .300 or better for the third straight season, making him the first Mets player to do so since David Wright (2005-2009). Coming into this season, MLB Network ranked McNeil as the second-best second baseman in the league and the best in the NL.

However, despite his clear talent on the diamond, McNeil wanted to play golf in college.

"Golf was one of my main sports when I got to high school ... I wanted to play college golf," he said on "Flippin' Bats." "It didn't really pan out for me ... so started playing baseball again – started playing really well in high school ... was lucky enough to get a scholarship to go play at Long Beach State ... Baseball was kind of my plan B in high school, but it's ended up being a pretty amazing plan B."

McNeil's bucket-list course is Augusta National.

That's fitting because McNeil welcomes a challenge. He loves competing against some of baseball's top teams in the NL East, and he knows not to sleep on the scrappy, sneaky Miami Marlins.

"I love the NL East," he said. "I think it's the best division in baseball. Every single night, it's a fight, it's a grind. ... There are no easy wins in this division. It's going to be a battle until the end, but I like my team a lot."

The Mets' odds improved this offseason, as new owner Steve Cohen gave the franchise a makeover, bolstering the roster and changing the culture. Cohen also brought back the fan-favorite black uniforms for Friday night blackouts at Citi Field.

However, McNeil doesn't want to bring back everything from the past, and that applies to his nickname, "Flying Squirrel." It's a moniker he earned from a college teammate, and no matter how hard he has tried, he has never been able to shake it.

"I wasn't a huge fan of it, and then my roommate in rookie ball, he found out and brought it into the minor league clubhouse," he said. "I was hoping it kind of got left in the minor league clubhouse — it didn't. It made its way into the major league clubhouse. It is what it is. I'm enjoying it and learning to love it."

To hear more, including McNeil's thoughts on his famous diving catch into the net against the Chicago White Sox, check out the entire episode below.

For more from "Flippin' Bats," subscribe on YouTube and follow along on TwitterInstagram and Facebook! 

Ben Verlander spent five years in the Detroit Tigers organization. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.

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