Photo by: Cristina Byrne-Sternberg/Rocket City Trash Pandas
By Chuck Richter, AngelsWin.com
August 21st, 2022
MADISON, Alabama – Coming off an electric walk-off win the previous night after an hour long rain delay in the 9th inning, all of the players were loose and in good spirits on Sunday. Zach Neto the Angels first round pick in the 2022 amateur draft talked with us for nearly 10 minutes and described the clubhouse's positive atmosphere, the talent on the ball club and his journey from a young man playing baseball to draft day, as well as his short time in professional ball.
The Angels #2 ranked prospect according to many publications had his first day off with the Rocket City Trash Pandas on Sunday, but Zach got to cheerlead from the dugout and watch his teammates come back again after a 3-0 deficit to win late, 6-5.
In our interview, Zach Neto also defined what playing with 'swag' means to him, how he enjoys interacting with the fans at the ballpark and much much more.
Check out our AngelsWin.com exclusive interview with the Angels 2022 first round pick Zach Neto below.
Here is the complete interview transcript for the hard of hearing and for quotes.
AngelsWin.com: All right. Chuck Richter here as AngelsWin.com, here today with Zach Neto. Zach, how’re you doing?
Zach Neto: I’m doing good; how about you?
AngelsWin.com: Good, good. Hey, real quick, the Trash Pandas, the run they’re on; it’s got to be exciting to be a part of that.
Zach Neto: For sure. Yeah, it’s awesome. You know, I just able to be a part of this team, and I’ll be a part of a winning team, good coaching, the locker room, on the field; great atmosphere here in Rocket City. It’s just awesome to be a part of; being able to put on the uniform every day and feel proud about it. It’s, honestly, a dream come true, and just being able to go out there with the guys in the locker room, and the coaching staff that we have, it’s just stress free, you know? Just being able to go out there; play your game, and whatever happens, happens. But be able to know that no matter what happens, the team got your back and the coaches as well.
AngelsWin.com: Right. Yeah. What was Draft Day like for you? It must’ve been exciting.
Zach Neto: Oh, yeah. Draft Day was awesome. Actually, being able to be there, get my name called; being there with my family. It was just a dream come true; you know? First all-star game, first home-run derby, it could’ve happened the year I got drafted. So, it was awesome.
AngelsWin.com: That’s awesome. When did you know when the Angels were interested in you?
Zach Neto: The Angels, I found out about a couple days before they were on the clock. They didn’t really know if I was go Angels or not, but they took the front step forward, and they’re on the clock, and it was there, and I’m glad to be an Angel; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
AngelsWin.com: Awesome. Yeah. What will Angel fans come to learn of you the player, your style of play, and you the person?
Zach Neto: Yeah. So, style of play. It’s just somebody who’s going to have a lot of fun on the field, very energetic; he likes to be the crowd attention, somebody behind the scenes. I’m just working on my craft every day, you know, trying to get perfect at one thing at a time, and just being able to go out there on the field, have a smile on my face no matter how good or bad the day is going for me; just being able to go out there, have fun, be electric, and just be me.
And then it’s just something that I like to do before the game, I just like to go out there. The game’s already mental itself, so just trying to go out there, kind of, get some stress out of my head, and just have some fun with the kids, you know? The kids don’t come all the games, so just being able to make that day memorable for them to be able to meet a professional athlete. It’s just something that I’ve always wished I did, and I’m just giving it back. I’m playing a lot of pressure for a game, for a baseball. It’s just awesome and being able to have that winning mentality and making that competition for them as well.
AngelsWin.com: That’s awesome. What do you take most pride in in your game: hitting, baserunning, defense?
Zach Neto: Yeah, I take pride in a lot of things, you know? The biggest thing I take pride in is just making the least amount of mistakes, you know? Hitting, defense, baserunning, it all comes together, but just being able to make the least amount of mistakes is going to win ballgames. You could be batting a thousand, but if you’re making mistakes on the field, you might not win that day.
So, to be able to make the little mistakes, be able to correct those, and be able to have a good game on and off the field, it’s just a day of success, you know? Even if the day doesn’t go your way, it’s just something that you’ll feel proud about going into the next day and just keep going from there and not stopping what you’ve been practicing and just keep going.
AngelsWin.com: Awesome. So, what do you think you need to work on to reach your full potential and make it to the big leagues?
Zach Neto: Yeah. I think the biggest thing for me is just being able to, like, take the pressure off of myself. Draft Day is already over. I have a lot of expectations coming into this year, next year, the years after that. It’s just being able to take that pressure off my shoulders just going back to being the player that I was. Just going out there; I’m having fun and producing on the field.
I could see myself having—I see myself sped up a little bit right now, you know, making a couple of mistakes I shouldn’t be making and being hard on myself a little bit right now. But the coaching staff is doing a really good job of, kind of, like, taking it off of me and just telling me to, like, just to shake it off and go on to the next day. And I think that’s going to be the biggest thing for me, just being able to take all that pressure off my shoulders, and know that if I have a bad day, that tomorrow’s a new day, and I could be the best player I can tomorrow.
AngelsWin.com: Awesome. Are you, kind of, left to your own devices in terms of, you know, like, your workout, your goals, diet, anything like that? Or does the organization, kind of, instruct you on what you should do?
Zach Neto: Yeah. So, they’re, kind of, letting me do my own thing. They’re there just there for support. Of course they’re there to help me through it and stuff like that, but they’re, pretty much, there to just—whatever I need, they’re going to be there for me; whatever I want, they’re going to try to get for me. But they’re, pretty much, lenient about that, letting me, kind of, see the player that I want to be and just not do too much with it. Just, kind of, let it be and just let me go out there and have success.
AngelsWin.com: Okay. Who has impressed you the most, teammate or opposing player, so far in the minors here?
Zach Neto: Hmm, that’s a good question. I would have to say the whole, like I say, locker room, you know—
AngelsWin.com: Yeah. Talented.
Zach Neto: —bunch of guys I’ve never met before, only the draft guys when we’re at mini-camp. But pretty much everybody in there you know Just being able to see people play for the first time, it’s always an impression, and being able to go to Biloxi, not play that first game, and I was there. And just being able to see how everything gelled with team. It was just awesome.
You know, I mean, I’m not a big fan of watching baseball, but, I mean—I tell you what—I love watching that game of baseball, because it was just awesome; awesome game to watch. The guys were awesome. And even the coaches as well, they were very electric, very energetic, into the game, and it was just something fun to watch, for sure.
AngelsWin.com: Cool. What was your best game to date: high school, college or even professional?
Zach Neto: I would probably have to say—I would probably have to say in college. You know, we played a series at Liberty. And we didn’t start off the way we started—started off hot. And we went to Liberty—they hadn’t lost a game yet—and able to go over there, hit my first home run of the season start. And then my next at bat, being able to hit one over the batter’s eye, that was probably my farthest home run in my life—
Zach Neto: —able to go out there and do that and then being able to win, I just had that positivity going into the weekend; that was probably the best game of my life.
AngelsWin.com: That’s awesome; that’s great. When did you really first commit to playing baseball?
Zach Neto: I would say, probably, around, like, three or four. I have an older brother who’s nine years older. So, just being able to grow up watching him, kind of, see the love for the game that he had, and it just carried over to me, you know, being able to see him in high school. And then me growing up in Little League and stuff like that, I’ve always wanted to be just like him, because he was having a lot of success. And just going to the games, major league games like this, and just being able to see other guys play, kind of, pinpoint things and stuff, it was awesome to see. And it just gave me the love for the game even more.
AngelsWin.com: Awesome. Who were your favorite baseball players growing up?
Zach Neto: My parents are big Yankee’s fans growing up, so I ‘ve always grown-up watching Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter’s always been my favorite player. Today, I would probably say Kiki Hernández is my favorite player just because of his versatility; just reminds me of myself; being able to play anywhere, anywhere, anytime; being that coach’s best friend; being able to put him anywhere in the lineup; being able to put him anywhere on the field and know that you’re going to get the best version of himself. And, yeah, but those two are my favorite position players.
AngelsWin.com: So, who do you model your play after?
Zach Neto: I try to model myself over Derek Jeter—
AngelsWin.com: Derek Jeter, yeah.
Zach Neto: —yeah.
AngelsWin.com: If you’re to make it to the big leagues, what would your walk-up music be? [laugh]
Zach Neto: I couldn’t tell you right not, but it would probably be something that gets the crowd going just to, kind of, get that feeling. I like to play with a lot of pressure. I feel like I do good under pressure. So, just to be able to get the crowd going nice and quickly while I’m making my major league debut, it’s probably going to be something electric, for sure.
AngelsWin.com: That’s cool. You did mention that you do play with a lot of swagger. Define what is ‘swagger’ mean to you?
Zach Neto: Yeah. So, ‘swag’ to me is just something that I just try to go out there, not to be too flashy, but something that I’m flashy, but being able to make the plays look easy. Being able to make plays that guys really won’t be able to make. And just being able to go out there with a lot of energy, you know? I think swag—I think the definition of ‘swag’ is just being able to play with a lot of energy. Like, really, not caring about what the outcome is, and just be able to go out there and be the best version of yourself.
AngelsWin.com: Okay, Lightning Round real quick. Favorite movie?
Zach Neto: Favorite movie? Top Gun.
AngelsWin.com: Top Gun, awesome. Yeah. The original, or the new one?
Zach Neto: The original.
AngelsWin.com: Okay. Favorite song?
Zach Neto: Favorite song? “Dead or Alive,” Jazz Cartier.
AngelsWin.com: Okay. Favorite video game to play against?
Zach Neto: Call of Duty.
AngelsWin.com: Okay. What would be a perfect day away from the ballpark for you? What does that look like?
Zach Neto: Beach— anytime at the beach.
AngelsWin.com: Okay. When you’re done playing baseball, what’s your next career?
Zach Neto: Just being able to continue going with the development, you know, and just being able to show little kids the game of baseball; giving them my sense, and just being able to show them how to be successful and just have fun on the field.
AngelsWin.com: Awesome. Well, thank you for meeting with us today.
Zach Neto: Yes, sir.