Virginia Tech grad, Rays' GM Erik Neander comes home for a visit

Virginia Tech graduate Erik Neander (December of 2005) has been with the Tampa Bay Rays since a 2007 internship and is closing in on his first full year as the organization’s general manager, having been promoted in November of 2016 just 11 years after leaving Blacksburg. As he does whenever he is close to the campus on business trips, he recently stopped in to visit some Virginia Tech staff members, and was able to get a few minutes with the Oneonta, New York native.

Q: How often do you get back to Blacksburg?
EN: “Not as much as I’d like to, but if I am anywhere in the vicinity for work-related reasons – within a three-hour radius – we’ll try to get over here at least for a day. We’ll stop through and see a few people and just see how it’s continuing to develop. Football games, I got to the ACC Championship Game last year in Orlando. That was just an hour drive from Tampa, so that was easy. I would like to get up this fall for a game. The last game here that I saw was Ohio State, the opener in 2015. We made a late call up here to see that one, and that was a good day, even though the game didn’t go as we’d have liked.”

Q: Is there anyone or anything that is a must-see or must-do when you come back?
EN: “Other than some staff that I’ve gotten to know just to say hello, I don’t think there’s one specific place. I love the campus. I love the community. I love the downtown, and every time I come through, I’ll spend an hour just driving around just to see it all. There’s no specific landmark other than just seeing Blacksburg as a whole.”

Q: From an athletics standpoint, in terms of facilities, how much has changed?
EN: “A lot. Just by walking around and seeing everything, Lane Stadium itself, is probably the most similar, but that’s also gone under a transformation as well … but from the football facilities to the indoor facility here, the baseball field and things that are going on down there. The softball field and the field house, and I was just over in the new basketball facility, where I got to meet Buzz [Williams]. When I was here, that was tennis courts and a roller hockey rink. So it’s dramatic, and even on the academic side, it’s transformed quite a bit. However, with all of the changes, it’s kept the character and the charm and everything that makes Virginia Tech so special.”

Q: You met with Coach Szefc. How did that conversation go?
EN: “Yeah, I came up this morning and met with John Szefc. We had breakfast and talked. It was kind of a get-to-know-each-other conversation and offer support. I was just picking his brain, and the subject matter made it easy to connect. We talked about baseball and Virginia Tech, and that was very easy to talk about. We just wanted to start the dialogue and develop a relationship. We offered each other support in however we could, whether it was professionally or personally. There’s certainly a mutual interest, a mutual respect and desire to support one another, and it’s certainly a good relationship to foster and to have.”

Q: We’ve got a Drive for 25 campaign going on right now, looking to increase the Hokie Club membership to 25,000 members. What are your thoughts on this effort?
​EN: “I think this community, the alumni itself, I can’t speak for other schools, but there’s a bond that’s forged when you’re here and a commitment that extends to the community and staying a part of that long after you’ve left here. It’s been 12 years since I graduated from here, but it feels like no time has passed, and the commitment and the interest in the university and the athletics department and the desire to see it succeed athletically, academically is something that is really important to me personally, and I think to our alumni as a whole. To support that desire and that commitment and belief in this university and wanting to see it thrive not just today or tomorrow, but for a really long time, I think it’s really important to back that up with support to the best that we can.”

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