There was no need to keep his arm in shape. Baseball hadn't been that much of Neil's past, and it certainly didn't look like it would be part of his future.
But four years later, everything has changed. Neil has emerged as an unlikely pitching prospect with the Miami Marlins, having reached Double-A Jacksonville just a season after being taken in the 29th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"I never would have thought this might happen," Neil said. "I didn't even dream it."
If it appeared that Neil had any athletic future coming out of high school in Arizona, it was as a swimmer. But he was hardly in great demand for that either.
So when the 6-foot-6 Eagle Scout left Brigham Young University after attending freshman summer classes to go on his Mormon mission at age 19, it certainly didn't seem like the Cougars were losing an athlete of significance.
Neil was sent to New York City, where he evangelized for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Based in Queens, he knocked on doors there as well as in Long Island and Brooklyn. There was really no time for baseball even if he would have tried to make it.
"Going on a mission was very important to me," Neil said.
Shortly after returning to BYU, Neil found a new calling. The Cougars had tryouts for the baseball team and he made it.
"They saw someone who was 6-foot-6 and could throw 90 [mph]," Neil said. "I guess they thought I might develop."
Neil pitched only rarely the first year but more the second. He was an important part of the team in 2011, going 6-4 with a 2.38 ERA and three saves.
The Marlins took notice. His eligibility having expired, Neil received a token $3,000 bonus and he began his professional career at the advanced age of 24 a year ago.
Neil struck out 61 and walked just five in 66 1/3 innings for Jamestown of the New York-Penn League before being promoted to Jupiter, where he won his two starts.
Back in the Class A Advanced Florida State League to start this year, Neil went 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in eight starts before being promoted to Jacksonville. The highlight was six perfect innings against Fort Myers on April 16, when Neil was taken out because of an innings limit despite having thrown just 55 pitches.
Neil hasn't had the same kind of success in two starts with Jacksonville, failing to last the needed five innings to get a victory Saturday at Chattanooga despite being given a big early lead. But his background makes him a feel-good story anyway.
Neil turns 26 in September, and his age will become a factor as he tries to move up. Finances will also become a family issue. Neil has been married since 2009 and his wife, Laura, has been working as a part-time nanny as she follows the BYU graduate on his baseball journey.
"It's hard to get by," Neil said. "But it's important to us that we are together."
After his two years away from the sport, Neil is still in catch-up mode. But he has already accomplished more than anyone could have predicted on his new baseball mission.
Bethancourt heats up: After going hitless in his first game off the disabled list, Mississippi catcher Christian Bethancourt went 9-for-21 to raise his average to .298 through Sunday. He is No. 85 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and ranks No. 4 with Atlanta. Though Bethancourt (strained hamstring) came off the DL, Evan Gattis (right wrist tendonitis) went on. Gattis had four homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games since being promoted from Class A Advanced Lynchburg.
Lake in swim again: Junior Lake, sidelined during Spring Training by a back injury, hit .319 in his first 18 games with Tennessee after coming off the disabled list. The Chicago Cubs' No. 9 prospect had committed eight errors, though, while playing third base as well as his normal shortstop. Lake had a four-game stretch where he was 9-for-18 at the plate.
Rodriguez still out: Pensacola third baseman Henry Rodriguez, the Southern League's leading hitter with a .348 average, remained sidelined because of an injury to his left hand. He had stretched his hitting streak to 16 games -- longest in the league -- on May 8 against Mississippi before having to go on the disabled list. He had two homers and 15 RBIs in 33 games.
Martin gets first loss: Ethan Martin lost his first game for Chattanooga after five victories, giving up four runs on four hits over six innings against Jacksonville. He struck out seven and walked two. Martin, the Dodgers' No. 8 prospect, has shown improved control this season with 54 strikeouts to 29 walks in 57 2/3 innings. The first-round choice in the 2008 Draft had a 3.28 ERA.