O'Neal ready to begin life in Braves organization - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

O'Neal ready to begin life in Braves organization


Michael O'Neal has been busy climbing the baseball ladder in this area, first starring for Pacelli High School, with his next stop, junior college -- CVCC, where he became one of the Pirates' top playes of the last decade, then it was off to Auburn, where he made the starting rotation as a junior. 

But no big league team picked him in the draft when his time was done on the Plains. That wasn't going to stop O'Neal, who played independent pro ball the past two seasons.

"Some of the scouts I talked to said 'Hey, you're going to work until you're 70 years old behind a desk. You might as well live out your dream as long as you can if have an arm like that,'" O'Neal said. "I just took it as another step. I mean, I went to junior college as a walk-on, so I always knew that I had to work harder than other people around me."

His big break came last year. O'Neal altered his pitching mechanics including changing his arm slot from sidearm to three-quarters, and his velocity jumped from 88 miles an hour to 94. That got the attention of the Atlanta Braves, who signed him the day after he worked out for them in November.

"They said they saw a lefty with a good arm that can move up the system," said O'Neal. "They said the world is endless for you if you can throw low-to-mid-90's and get guys out, so they were like you can move up as fast as you want to."

He's excited, fired up, and ready to take his game to the next level -- and beyond.

"They told me they hope I end the year High-A to AA," O'Neal said, "so every time I work out I'm thinking hey one more minute whether it's running or one more sprint I'm thinking, hey I want to end the year in AA. I want to be as high as I can get in the organization. I've done a lot of work going into it, but now it's almost like you put even more work to get everything you want to achieve. Every day I think about it. I wake up and my alarm is like, "Your dreams are calling. You need to wake up."

O'Neal will report to Orlando next month, spend time at extended spring training, with an assignment to Class A Rome likely in mid-April.

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