Rays GM, Virginia Tech alum Erik Neander living out World Series dreams

The VT alum started his career with the Rays as an intern in 2007.
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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ARLINGTON, Texas (WDBJ) - Tuesday marks the start of the 2020 World Series, where the Los Angeles Dodgers will take on the Tampa Bay Rays, and the American League champions have a prominent Hokies connection.

Rays General Manager and Vice President for Baseball Operations Erik Neander is a Virginia Tech graduate. He never played baseball at Tech because of a shoulder injury suffered in high school, but he’s still managed to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

“It’s all you could ever ask for and certainly the types of moments you dream of having,” said Neander.

The VT alum started his career with the Rays as an intern in 2007. Over the last 13 years, he’s steadily worked his way to the top of the organization, building a winning culture along the way.

“It starts with humility,” he said. “Humility, curiosity, just a desire to get better and believing in the people that you work with and respecting one another and just trying to grow and elevate each other. The subject matter of baseball is what brought us together but the purpose that we have been able to find in our work and the way we do it together means everything and is so much of our success.”

Despite having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, the Rays have found success with analytics and by trusting their instincts when it comes to player evaluations.

Some of the team’s biggest contributors are hidden treasures who were acquired in trades. Neander and his staff have been able to see value in players that other clubs may have missed.

“We just do our best to appreciate the strengths of every individual player and then we work awfully hard to try to put them in the right moment to have success, given their strengths," said Neander. "This team right here, the way they fit together is uncanny. The way that their skills as a group complement one another and then the way they play together - we’re selfless. We have, I think, a humble nature to us.”

Neander has been intent on getting the Rays back to the World Series since their last trip in 2008. That was also Neander’s first year as a full-time employee with the organization.

“You think, ‘Man, this is easy. That was quick.’ It hasn’t been easy,” he said. "We haven’t been able to get past an ALDS until this year again and we’re certainly appreciating it.

“There will be a time to reflect and process it all and really appreciate all that’s gone into it and all the people that have helped along the way but right now, this moment, we’re just enjoying the ride and trying to take it all in as best we can.”

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