The Interrogation Room: Rafael Neda

Rafael Neda digs for third in a 2012 Timber Rattlers game at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium. (Ann Mollica/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | November 7, 2012 6:19 AM ET

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Rafael Neda had a great perspective on the 2012 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Playoff run.  He was the catcher for every pitch while the Rattlers were on defense this past postseason.  Neda was also involved in some big offensive plays as Wisconsin made its push to the pennant.

That is why Neda is the perfect candidate to be the first player from the 2012 Midwest League Champions to step into The Interrogation Room this offseason.

(Editor's Note: Click on the links within the interview to see the plays that are mentioned)

Q: The Timber Rattlers starting pitchers were on a huge roll during the team's run to the Midwest League pennant and all credited you as part of their performance.  What did you see from behind the plate that made everything click for the pitchers during the playoffs?

Rafael Neda: A huge part of working with the TRat pitchers this year was that they were able to make the hitters make contact early in the count. That was probably the biggest key on the first half.  Then, I felt we kind of lost that in the second half but then the pitching staff and catchers got together and went back to our first half philosophy of trying to make hitters put the ball in play and make our great defense work.

Q: The first two rounds of the Midwest League Playoffs can get hectic.  The team played five games over five days in three cities with a couple of long bus rides spaced in there.  How did you put together a game plan for those first two series?

RN: Our biggest plan for us was to stay motivated and energetic. On those short series, with traveling and few hours of sleep, the team with more energy usually will push thru nine innings.

Q:  We kid you about your speed, but there was a point in Game Two in the series against the Clinton LumberKings where you ran through Matt Erickson's stop sign at third base to score a very important insurance run.  Could you take us through that play and tell us what you saw to score that run?

RN: As you all know I'm not really that fast and whenever I really need to turn on my speed, I can. On that play I knew that the game was close and I me standing on second base could be an important insurance run, so before something could happen I knew exactly where the outfielders where standing and I knew that if something passed the infield I was going to score, because the outfielders were playing deep. A little flair was hit and I knew that it was over the second baseman so I ran as fast I could, so fast that I didn't even see Matty giving me the stop sign, maybe because I was so determined to score and win that game.

Q:  In Game One of the Championship Series against the Fort Wayne TinCaps, you were at third in the bottom of the tenth inning in a tie game and scored the winning run on a wild pitch.  There are pictures that capture the emotion of your teammates as they charged out of the dugout to celebrate that win.  What were your thoughts and emotions after crossing home plate?

RN: When I was standing on third I knew there was a chance to score because the pitchers first pitch was wild so I had to be ready to score. Very next pitch was wild so as soon as I saw the catcher going to his left and couldn't catch [the ball], I was gone, I was going to score. When I crossed the plate I was so excited for my team because I knew we were going to win the whole thing. We had so much energy!

Q: That wasn't the only "walkoff" you were a part of during 2012.   You had the game winning single in the tenth inning to beat Peoria on June 29.  What do you think was the reason the team had so many last at bat wins last season?

RN: The reason why we had so many wins that we came from behind was because we never gave up and our pitchers always kept us close on the game. We knew that if we were close in the game, at the end we were going to find a way to win.

Q: Was there a point during that playoff run that you got a sense that the team was going to bring home the Championship?

RN: We always knew we could win it all, but when we lost the first game against Burlington we were a little disappointed but we knew that the next day at home we were going to give it all and if we lose that would have been ok, because we gave it all. But we ended up winning the second game and from that moment we all say that we were going to get a ring and bring the championship home.

Q: So, Brent Suter strikes out Lee Orr looking to end Game Four in Fort Wayne and clinches the pennant for the Timber Rattlers.  Would you share with the readers what happened to the ball from the final out after you caught it?

RN: After the game I hid that baseball in my bag because I didn't want it to get all wet when we celebrated in the clubhouse but after all that, I went back to my bag and gave it to Matty, he kept it and I think we all signed it once we got back to Appleton, because I think he was going to give it to our GM Rob because they were going to keep it for the fans.

Q:  What have you been doing since the season ended?

RN: Right after my season I flew back to Arizona for advance instructional league and I was there for another month. After that, I drove back home to Mexico and since I got back I only took a week off of complete rest, but now I've been training and getting my body back in shape for spring training and next season.

Q:  The season has been over for nearly two months.  What will you take away from 2012 as a Timber Rattler?

RN: I will always remember the good and bad moments, the laughs, the fights and all the jokes on the fields, off the field, on the bus me and my teammates had on this special season but definitely I will remember the great fans and the city of Appleton.

A big Thank you! to Rafael Neda for being our first guest in The Interrogation Room. 

Blast from the Past returns next week when Jim Irwin interviews Foxes Manager Gary Johnson at the 1968 Welcome Home Banquet. 

We'll be back in two weeks when another member of the 2012 Timber Rattlers steps into The Interrogation Room.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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