BY ANDREI GRESKA
Tucker Neuhaus was unlucky in high school. There's no two ways around it.
His 19-year-old brother Tyler, a catcher at Hillsborough Community College, was killed in a single-car accident on November 30, 2012.
The first time the Brewers were scouting him, a routine ground ball took an errant hop and punctured his ear drum.
The next time he was being scouted by the Brewers, Neuhaus tried to tough out a flu bug, but vomited on the field instead, forcing him off the diamond early.
Not to mention the strained quadriceps that forced him to miss most of his senior season.
So many challenges in such a short span are enough to sink the strongest of characters, let alone a young high schooler. But Neuhaus isn't your average baseball prospect. His will to succeed has driven him all the way to the professional ranks as the Brewers second pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft at No. 72.
"Adversity builds character," Neuhaus told reporters on a conference call inside the Miller Park press box. "A lot of people don't go through this much adversity so early in their life or really ever in their life. I knew right away that it would be one more thing that lights the fire every morning."
Character is one thing Neuhaus is not short of. He has the mindset of a seasoned veteran, focused solely on the task ahead. Luck be damned.
"That's only going to make me stronger. When I go through adversity in the minors and majors, it's not going to compare to what I've already been through. I try to be positive with almost everything. It was a terrible thing that happened, but at the end of the day I try to be positive."
That positive attitude may have endeared him to the Brewers scouts who complimented him on his demeanor and cheery outlook in the face of grave challenges when they finally saw him out on the field.
It may not be long before they see him again, either. Neuhaus is set on living out his dream of playing pro ball over attending Louisville, where he had signed his national letter of intent. In fact, Neuhaus' agent and adviser were in negotiations as he spoke, hoping to have him signed by Saturday and delivered to the organization by Tuesday.
His route to Milwaukee has taken him on a tour of the Midwest. He was in Kansas City for a workout on Sunday, Minneapolis on Monday and Chicago on Tuesday. It was while he was in Chicago that the Brewers called to ask if he could make the drive up for one final workout and evaluation.
"That look paid off," Neuhaus speculated. "It did everything for me. I went over there for a private workout and got to hit on the field and meet all the guys, so that was just a blast. I said to my dad, 'I don't know what it is about Miller Park, but that was my favorite out of all of them."
That is no small statement coming from a self-avowed Wrigley Field fan, where he and his dad attended plenty of Cubs games when he was growing up.
"After working out at Wrigley and then the same day working out at Miller Park, right away I liked Miller Park way more. I'm Brewers everything now."
Neuhaus' ties to the midwest extend up I-94. His father, Kenneth, played his college ball at Wisconsin-Eau Claire and was a baseball coach at Bethel University in Minnesota. Like his son, Kenneth has switched his allegiances from the north-siders.
"He grew up a Cubs fan, but when I was drafted by the Brewers he said, 'now I'm just a Wrigley Field fan and a fan of the Brewers.'" Neuhaus noted. "I think it's cool to have family in Wisconsin and Green Bay. I think it was a part of God's plan to bring me back."
Neuhaus has some work to do before his friends and family can see him play at Miller Park. At 6-3, 200 pounds, he is bigger than most prototypical shortstops, making his range and mobility a concern at the pro level and he could be a better fit at third base.
"I'm open to a change, but I'd love to stick at short," he said. "I've been playing short almost my whole life. In the offseason, I think one thing that I'll really focus on is speed training and footwork."
Neuhaus added that he idolized Troy Tulowitzki, a bigger shortstop for the Rockies, for precise that reason saying: "A lot of people thought he'd move to third, but he works so hard to stay at short and beat the odds, I look up to him for that."
Whether it's at short or the hot corner, there's no doubt his demeanor will remain positive, as it's been through some of his darkest days.
With that kind of character, who needs luck, anyways.
Happy to have him: The Brewers weren't expecting to land such a highly regarded prospect picking at No. 54.
Neither was Devin Williams, the 20th overall prospect in the draft by ESPN.com.
"I was surprised," Williams said of being taken by Milwaukee in the second round. "I thought I'd go at the end of the first round, but I'm happy with where I'm at."
Williams had previously stated he wouldn't automatically sign with the team that drafted him and might instead honor his commitment to the University of Missouri. However, when asked if it would be a tough sign, he said it wouldn't and that he was ready to get started with his pro career.
The Missouri native has increased his velocity as he's grown, reaching 94 on the radar gun. Apart from his physical maturation, Williams credited his offseason training with his summer team pitching coach Brian DeLucas.
"He's one of the best in the game. We've got six players that hit 94 (mph) or above, so I give him a lot of credit."
With the excitement and emotions of draft day out of the way, the next step in his growth process will be to learn more about the franchise that drafted him. A Cardinals fan growing up, Williams noted he knew one thing about Milwaukee fans.
"I know that they don't like St. Louis."