First-year United States Sports Academy head baseball coach Mike Neal recently traveled to Goodyear, Ariz., to attend spring training practices and games with Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians.

While there, Neal visited with Reds staff, attended pitching meetings, and watched bullpen sessions up close. He also watched as MLB bunting legend Brett Butler taught the art of small ball to the Reds players.

“A few months ago, my long-time friend Derek Johnson (Reds pitching coach) invited me to come out and spend time at spring training,” Neal said.  “For the past 30-plus years I’ve been coaching during the spring seasons so this opportunity was never a reality.”

Neal’s time spent with the Guardians spring training staff was also rewarding as the USSA Eagles baseball coach was able to watch Guardians outfield coach JT Maguire work with the major league outfielders putting them through drills.  The access to the Guardians spring training was made possible by Neal’s former player Jared Jones, who is the Director of Logistics and Team Travel for the major league club.

“Everyone was so warm and welcoming which really made for a once in a lifetime experience,” Neal said.

Back in Daphne, Neal is recruiting his first team to play at USSA. The Eagles will begin play during the 2024-2025 season.