Brewers’ next step: Sign Williams, Neuhaus

It turns out the Brewers drafted a serious Cardinals fan and the son of a Cubs fan with their two picks on Day 1 of the First-Year Player Draft.

“I couldn’t be a Cardinals fan anymore last night,” said right-hander Devin Williams, Milwaukee’s top pick.

Things should be a bit easier for the Brewers’ second pick, Florida prep infielder Tucker Neuhaus. He was born in Minnesota, has family in central Wisconsin, and his father, Kenneth, played baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. But Kenneth Neuhaus grew up a big Cubs fan, and took his son to many a game at Wrigley Field.

“To see me get drafted by the Brewers, right away he said, ‘Now I’m just a Wrigley Field fan but a fan of the Brewers,’” said Tucker Neuhaus, who called himself a big fan of the Green Bay Packers.

Williams, who went to the Brewers in the second round Thursday with the 54th overall pick, and Neuhaus, who went 72nd overall in the Competitive Balance phase, participated in conference calls with reporters on Friday afternoon.

Even though Brewers area scout Harvey Kuenn Jr. had shown keen interest in Williams throughout the process, the pick still came as a surprise.

“I actually thought I would be off the board before they picked,” Williams said, “but I know they had been pretty interested. They sent a lot of people to see me play this spring, and I’m happy to be their first pick. … I was pretty surprised. I thought I would go there at the end of the first round, but I’m happy with where I went.”

Does that mean he could be a tough sign? Williams has a scholarship waiting for him at Missouri.

“No, I don’t think I will be that tough of a sign,” Williams said. “I’m ready to get my pro career started.”

Neuhaus, who is represented by agent Barry Meister and has a college commitment to Louisville, sounded even more eager.

“My area scout [Tim McIlvane] came over today and we just talked about everything that’s going to go down in the next few days and the summer,” Neuhaus said. “My agent and advisor, I think, are just doing a little bit of negotiations right now but I think that’s going to be probably over by the end of the day. Hopefully I’ll sign tomorrow or Sunday and be out in Arizona by Tuesday.”

Neuhaus has had a challenging few months. His older brother, Tyler, was killed in an auto accident in November, and Tucker’s senior season was ruined by injuries, including a ruptured eardrum suffered with Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid in the stands, and a right quadriceps strain.

He finished his senior season with fewer than 30 at-bats, but still had a good feeling about being drafted by the Brewers. He worked out for the Royals in Kansas City on Sunday, for the Twins in Minneapolis on Monday and for the Cubs in Chicago on Tuesday morning. On Monday afternoon, McIlvane requested that Neuhaus make Tuesday a doubleheader, so after his morning session at Wrigley Field he hustled up to Miller Park.

“That work paid off — it did everything for me,” Neuhaus said. “I went over there for a private workout and got to hit on the field and meet all the guys. That was just a blast. Walking out of there, I remember saying to  my dad, ‘I don’t know what it was about Miller Park, but that was my favorite out of all of them.’”

He remembered another conversation from months earlier, when he was called over to the fence by a stranger who apparently knew about Neuhaus’ family tragedy and injury woes.

“He just said, ‘It’s good to see you have a smile on your face, that shows a lot about you,’” Neuhaus said. “I said, ‘Thank you, sir,’ and right at the end, he goes, ‘By the way, I’m the scouting director with the Brewers.’ That was the first time I really met [Seid]. The first impression was that after all the adversity, I was still staying positive. I think that first impression really helped me with Bruce.”

How did his brother’s death change him as a person and a baseball player?

“It really just made me tougher mentally,” Neuhaus said. “Adversity builds character, and a lot of kids don’t go through that type of adversity at this kind of age, or really ever, in their life. I knew that right away it’s only going to be one more thing that lights the fire every morning. In the long run, it’s going to pay off; going through adversity like that is only going to make me stronger. When I go through adversity in the Minors and the Majors, it’s not going to compare to what I’ve already been through.

“I try to be positive with almost everything. It’s a terrible thing that happened, but at the end of the day I try to look at it as a positive.”

The 2013 First-Year Player Draft is still going. You can follow all of the picks with MLB.com’s Draft Tracker.

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Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

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