Some guys say a stolen base starts with a good first step. Brevin Neveker knows a stolen base begins in the dugout.
Every chance he gets, the New Oxford leadoff man is analyzing the opposing pitcher. His eyes narrow as he watches for tells that might help him understand when the pickoff move is coming. Pitch patterns begin to reveal themselves. His internal timer registers his moment of opportunity — from the start of the hurler’s delivery to the instant the catcher is out of his crouch, ready to fire.
By the time he’s on base, Neveker is just waiting for the right opportunity.
“There are a lot of fast kids out there and I have to separate myself from them,” Neveker said. “If you’re smart when you run the bases, you’re going to get to the next level.”
When Neveker speaks of the next level, he means playing college baseball. In terms of high school baserunning, he’s already reached the upper echelon.
In 41 career high school games, he’s stolen 56 bases. As a sophomore he broke the individual season record with 31. This year he claimed New Oxford’s career mark and he still has another season to play.
An undersized outfielder, Neveker knows that his speed and his smarts are what sets him apart. It’s the reason that he made the cut for his second consecutive Big 26 Baseball Classic, a showcase series of three games to be played between the best kids Pennsylvania and Maryland have to offer. FNB Field, the home of the Harrisburg Senators, will host the event from July 25-28.
Neveker was one of six juniors on last year’s 22-man squad. Only three qualified for the team for a second consecutive season.
“It’s a great opportunity to represent yourself, your school, your community and the state of Pennsylvania,” Neveker said. “I don’t want to take the sport of baseball for granted, so I take every opportunity I can to play it.”
Neveker was born to be a strong base runner. He learned to cherish the art of the steal by listening to his father tell stories about playing Division 2 baseball at University of Armstrong State, now known as Georgia Southern. Tales of Walt Neveker’s heroics never grew stale, and his insights quickly helped his youngest son separate himself from his peers.
The youngest of three boys, Brevin looked up to his brother Bailey, who is now on scholarship with the Millersville University golf team, and Brodey, an emerging slugger at Frederick Community College. While both of his brothers make their reputation off their swings, Brevin felt destined to earn his way on the basepaths.
Walt was proud. He’d learned to take advantage of his legs at an early age as well.
“As a kid, every single time I played baseball I’d tell my father I love to run,” Brevin said. “As I got older, he really helped teach me the art of studying pitchers. You can’t just be fast. You have to be smart. He’s a big part of my smarts today.”
Neveker is on a shortlist of players who became a regular starter on the New Oxford varsity team as a sophomore. He made sure his coach didn’t regret it, setting the single-season stolen base record that year.
Though he didn’t quite match his stolen base totals during his junior year, he showed steady improvement in nearly every other facet. His batting average jumped 43 points to .344 and his slugging percentage boosted 60 points to .375, with a whopping two doubles compared to the previous year’s one.
Of course, with Neveker’s prowess on the basepaths, every single or walk could easily turn into the equivalent of a double or triple. His on-base percentage bumped up to .442, making him a constant threat to score.
Even after games, Neveker continues to study. He spends hours analyzing how his favorite Major League Baseball players advance from bag to bag. He also watches instructional videos on YouTube, looking for tips or tricks he hasn’t mastered.
“We haven’t had too many of those teams where we can sit back and hit three-run homers,” New Oxford coach Scott Anderson said. “We’ve had athletes as fast as Brevin, but none close to the same type of baserunner. He has the unique ability to run really well, but also has great instincts.”
Both of Brevin’s brothers grew throughout high school. He hopes he will too. Until then, at 5 feet 9 inches tall, Breveker knows he needs to maximize every effort in order to make his dreams come true.
During high school and American Legion season, he is one of the players that Anderson said never fails to make himself a little bit better every day with a focused practice.
Neveker’s short-term goal is to impress the coaches at Coastal Carolina University, his priority school. After a visit last fall, they told him to come back faster and stronger. This summer he’s trying to get to the gym every day, he said.
“Some people want to be the next Mike Trout, but I just believe you have to make the most out of you,” Neveker said. “I’m going to keep working my tail off to get where I want to be. I’m never going to settle. That’s what it boils down to.”
Neveker continues to look remarkable in the local and state-wide baseball circuit. As a rising junior, he set himself apart with a 6.6 second 60-yard dash. His side-to-side speed and reflexes in the outfield didn’t hurt, either.
This year, the soon-to-be high school senior worked on shortening his swing and adding some pop. Less bloopy base hits, more liners, he said.
Neveker hopes one day he’ll have stories to tell his kids, just like his father. He vividly recalls how he stole five bases to help manufacture a pair of runs during a 6-5 victory over Central York last year. Playing in the Big 26 game a year ago was the highlight of his career so far Neveker said, despite only reaching once on a walk.
The most meaningful stuff happened off the field. Neveker appreciated learning drills from some of the state’s best coaches. He even brought home a few for the Colonials to use, Anderson said.
Nothing made him smile more than the Buddy Program, which pairs special needs children with players. A young boy named Christian Marchese followed Neveker everywhere he went during shared moments over the weekend.
Neveker remembers best the high five Christian gave him after hitting the ball during the Challenger Game.
“They played the game and we shadowed them, stood by their side and uplifted them,” Neveker said. “It brought a really warm feel to baseball.”
Neveker stayed in touch with his buddy after the competition, even receiving a visit from Christian’s uncle during a game at Boiling Springs this year. The pair will reunite again when the games resume this summer. Neveker said he hopes he gives his young friend even more to celebrate this year.
Neveker is the first New Oxford player to compete in the Big 26 game, though Anderson said other players have been featured on tournament teams prior to the current all-star game’s existence. However, Neveker will almost surely be the only one to make the team twice in a career for some time.
As for his future baseball future beyond high school, his coach believes he has a high upside. A great student of the game and in the classroom, a leader by example and a positive player, Neveker would be a great addition to any team that gives him a chance.
“As long as he’s working to put on some size, it’s a realistic goal to play some high-tier college ball,” Anderson said. “He’s such a good center fielder. He covers a lot of territory and has a great arm. If he adds a little more pop in his bat, it’ll certainly make him very attractive.”