Top 50 Hokie Spotlight: Erik Neander
Virginia Tech has produced many famous and successful figures in the world of professional athletics. Names like Bruce Smith, Michael Vick, and Bruce Arians are well known throughout Hokie Nation and the NFL. While Virginia Tech is traditionally known as a “football school", there is now a Hokie taking over the baseball world. Allow me to introduce you to the 2019 MLB Executive of the Year and General Manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, Erik Neander.
Erik Neander graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005 with a degree in Food, Nutrition, and Exercise. After graduation, Neander was hired as a baseball operations intern with Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays in 2007, where he has been ever since. The 2020 season will be Neander’s 14th with the organization, and his 3rd as the Rays top-ranking baseball official. The Rays win totals have improved every year with Neander at the helm, which allowed them to make the playoffs in 2019 for the first time in 6 years.
Arguably the most impressive part of what Neander and his staff have been able to accomplish is that they are doing it with a payroll that ranks in the bottom 1/3rd of the league. The Rays rely heavily on talented young players, scouting, and trades. In 2018 alone, Neander and his staff completed 20 trades! Additionally, the roster that the Rays put together for the 2019 ALDS included 18 players acquired by Neander, with 15 being via a trade.
If you're a Virginia Tech fan in the market for an MLB team to cheer for, the Rays are a very logical choice. Neander has positioned the Rays to be competitive for years to come. Heading into 2020 the Rays have the top farm system in all of baseball; including the #1 overall prospect, 19-year-old shortstop Wander Franco. Neander continued to build on this top talent in the 2020 draft when the Rays selected Virginia Tech pitcher Ian Seymour with the 57th selection (Ian Seymour podcast below!). Hokies hiring Hokies in all walks of life!