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Jeff McNeil spends his offseasons in Nipomo.

He'll spend his All-Star break in Cleveland.

But it won't be much of a break.

McNeil, the Nipomo High grad who just so happens to lead the majors in hitting, has been voted to the 90th edition of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game as a reserve for the National League team.

McNeil, who was called up to the New York Mets last July, leads the majors with a .351 batting average.  

McNeil, 27, graduated from Nipomo High in 2010 and played at Long Beach State before being drafted by the Mets in 2013. McNeil spent this past offseason training at Nipomo High, taking batting practice and working with the high school players. 

"It's amazing to see," said Samm Spears, Nipomo High's varsity baseball coach. "We get to see the work he puts in firsthand. He comes to the field in the offseason and works out there. I had kids texting me excited about it. They're all watching."

Spears said players, such as Ocean League MVP Carmelo Hernandez, have been impacted by seeing a player like McNeil make the All-Star Game.

"Carmelo was telling me 'It's crazy that a kid from Nipomo is in the All-Star Game,'" Spears said. "They follow it just as much anybody else and it's huge for the community and the school to see. It's the talk around campus."

Spears is also quick to point out that Nipomo High has a current NFL player. Defensive back Akeem King, who spent last season with the Seattle Seahawks, also graduated from Nipomo in 2010. 

Spears notes that McNeil embodies the working-class spirit of a town like Nipomo.

"He's a grinder, and that's what our kids have been doing their whole lives," Spears said. "Some people are privileged and others have to grind to get where they're at. For him to be that grinder every single day, a guy that wasn't supposed to be there. That's exactly what Nipomo is. He's the epitome of Nipomo.

"We're hard-working grinders."

The most recent All-Star from the area was Robin Ventura, who made two All-Star Games during his playing career, once with the White Sox in 1992 and once with the Yankees in 2002. 

McNeil will be joined by two teammates at the All-Star Game, scheduled for July 9, at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Pitcher Jacob deGrom was voted as a starter and rookie Peter Alonso is also a reserve. 

Mets manager Mickey Callaway informed McNeil he had made the All-Star Game on Sunday ahead of the team's game against the Atlanta Braves.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” McNeil told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. “I’m just really excited, and ready to go represent the Mets.”

McNeil promptly had three hits and drove in the game-winning run in an 8-5 Mets win Sunday night. 

After going 2-for-4 Tuesday night in the Mets' 4-2 win over the rival Yankees, McNeil boosted his average to a league-best .351. McNeil has six home runs, 23 doubles, a triple, 37 runs scored and 34 RBIs. 

“He deserves it,” Alonso said of McNeil's All-Star Game selection, according to DiComo. “He’s got a chance to win a batting title this year. The kid rakes. He plays his heart out every single night.”

The Yankees' DJ LeMahieu led the American League in batting at .339 at press time. Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger was hitting .344 on the season at the time of this writing, second in the NL and the majors.

"It's fun to see," Spears added of McNeil's play since being called up July 24, 2018. "It's huge for our program and our community. He didn't get too big for it. He interacts with the kids around here and it's great to see somebody from Nipomo make it and stay Nipomo."

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Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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