Jeff McNeely likes to see children succeed.
As dean of students at Randolph Middle School, he handles all discipline and is responsible for the safety of the students and staff.
“It is a perfect fit for me,” says McNeely, in his 18th year as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employee.
That might surprise anyone familiar with McNeely’s previous career: as a professional baseball player.
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“Leaving baseball to come to CMS has been so rewarding to me,” McNeely said. “I have touched the lives of so many.”
McNeely, 45, grew up in Monroe and graduated from Monroe High School in 1988, where he played football and baseball. He attended Spartanburg Methodist College on a baseball scholarship and was drafted in 1989 by the Boston Red Sox.
After a few years in the minor leagues, McNeely was called up to the Boston Red Sox in 1993, where he was an outfielder.
McNeely sustained a career-ending shoulder injury in 1995 attempting a diving catch; the injury led to surgery and ultimately a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I tried to keep playing, but it just wasn’t the same,” he said.
He retired in 1997 and moved back to North Carolina. “My backup plan was connected to baseball,” he said.
He started a travel baseball program, the Charlotte Megastars, to mentor top baseball players in Mecklenburg County. McNeely said the program has produced more than 100 college baseball players and three professionals. The team McNeely currently is coaching is ranked No. 1 in North Carolina and No. 20 in the nation.
McNeely began speaking publicly about sports and mentoring children, which brought him to Sedgefield Middle School, where then-Principal Jackie Menser approached him about working with students.
“She told me it would be great to have an African-American male like me in the middle schools,” he said.
McNeely joined the Sedgefield staff as a Campus Security Associate and followed Menser’s move to Randolph Middle School in 1998, where he was named dean of students.
In addition to handling all referrals and school supervision and safety, McNeely visits classrooms daily to assist teachers with classroom management.
McNeely often refers to his professional baseball career to inspire children hoping to play professional sports. He tells them how important it is to build a rapport with teachers, because they will need references from them. He also tells them it is important to be a model student and that what they do outside school can affect them.
Students visiting his office can’t help but see the Red Sox photos and mementos.
Whether a student comes to him because he is being bullied or is referred because he is the bully, McNeely said, he hopes to help both succeed.
“What I like the most about what I do is being able to mentor kids,” he said. “I love helping children walk down the right path in life.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Katya? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Jeff McNeely’s travel baseball program, the Charlotte Megastars, visit www.charlottemegastars.com.