Neal misses running the bases and being with teammates at New Franklin

Chris Bowie
New Franklin senior Andy Neal lettered all three seasons in baseball for the Bulldogs. Neal said he liked being on the mound the most because he always felt in control of the game and how fast-paced it was. "Iliked being able to control the game," Neal said.

New Franklin graduated senior Andy Neal had a nickname to match his speed on the basepaths for the Bulldogs baseball team.

Although Neal and his teammates never got a chance to play their final season due to COVID-19, the nickname “wheels” will stick with the speedster just the same.

“I would try to steal every time I got on base,”Neal said. “I like to steal but very rarely did I get out.”

While playing baseball the past three seasons for the Bulldogs, Neal said he liked the sport because if it was easy- everybody would do it.

“There is also team effort and everybody working together,” Neal said. “It’s just really competitive and I like that.”

Of course when Neal isn’t playing baseball or running the bases, he said he likes to tinker with things, ride his dirt bike and go hunting and fishing.

As for what the future holds for the New Franklin native, Neal said he is still undecided if he wants to go to college.

But for now, Neal said baseball was something he always did since he was little and liked pitching and hitting equally. He said it was always nice to get a good base hit.

However, the senior standout has also come to the realization that this could very well be the last time he steps out on a baseball field.

“I really haven’t decided if I am going to continue playing baseball in college. “It was definitely disappointing not getting to play my final season. But it wasn’t even really about that, it was spending time on the field with my friends the last season I got. It was all about teammates and coaches because we were like family.”

Of course all Neal has now are memories of pitching six-plus innings his junior year against Sweet Springs or getting the game winner in the opening round of the district tournament against Fayette in New Bloomfield.

He said both of those games were probably his best games in a New Franklin uniform.

“I can’t remember the score but I remember pitching six innings on the road against Sweet Springs,”Neal said. “I ended up getting pulled because of the pitch count according to MSHSAA. I think that game stuck out just because of how far I went. And then in the game against Fayette, it was opening round of districts and the game was tied but we had a runner on third with two outs.

“Coach gave me the bunt sign and I put it right down the line at third. Lucas Storjohann wound up scoring and the third baseman missed the throw to first so I ended up being safe and we won the game.”

In addition to pitching for the Bulldogs, Neal said he also played a little at shortstop and second base. But pitching and stand atop the mound is where he liked to be because, there, he said you could control the game.

“I just liked how fast-paced it was and being able to control the game from the mound,”Neal said.

Neal also compared playing baseball to fixing cars at CARSTAR. He said there is always stuff you can work on but he always tried to give it his best every time he stepped on the field.

“Ifeel like I did well in high school but Ifeel like I could have done better in some places,”Neal said. “I’m going to miss my friends that Ihad and a few of my teachers. I am also going to miss not having really any grown up decisions, payments and everything. I’m just going to chillax.”

As for walking across the stage for the final time during graduation on June 20, Neal said it was nice to have an actual ceremony. He said it was still a little different but it was still nice to have almost a normal ceremony.

With a name like “wheels”you can bet that whatever Neal decides to do in the future, he will give it everything he has whether it’s fixing car or going to college.

“Playing baseball is just something I always did,”Neal said. “I’m definitely going to miss it because it’s something that Ihave been doing since I was little.”