CHARACTER COUNTS

Valley Vista student making impact on baseball field and off it with voice

Jan 2, 2024, 4:59 AM

Valley Vista High School's Stephen Neal III...

Valley Vista High School's Stephen Neal III

Valley Vista High School’s Stephen Neal III has found a way to succeed through his multiple interests and while making a huge impact within his school’s programs.

Neal is a two-sport athlete in baseball and football, with baseball being a life-long presence for Neal while football was a recent commitment thanks in part to his family’s roots.

Dad played at the University of Arizona while grandpa was at Arizona State University, and Neal hopes to become a third-generation collegiate athlete, but in baseball. He’s been going through the recruiting process, speaking with a number of coaches to try to find the right fit.

But Neal’s next home is going to be getting much more than his contributions on the field.

The 17-year-old is very passionate about music, participating in choir and theater, where memories of what is grandpa was playing in the house inspired him.

“He actually got me into a lot of gospel songs,” Neal said. “One of our favorite songs was ‘Amazing Grace.’ So I remember I was sitting there and he would just sit there singing some. … Then he had me join in and then we started doing different harmonies and stuff together. And I was like, ‘Wow, I love that feeling and I want to be able to share it with more people.'”

When Neal began singing in church, he was requested for the Phoenix Boys Choir, a group that has taken him all over the world to France, Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. There was obvious value there from the experience of seeing what it was like outside the United States.

“Just to be able to touch that many different people, going overseas and learning their culture, their different communities and their environment as a whole and just being able to bring that back to the United States was just amazing,” he said.

Neal’s voice caught on around school, and that’s when the theater program reached out about auditioning for the school’s edition of High School Musical, one Neal got the lead in as Troy Bolton. He juggled baseball season and an AP workload in the classroom with it. This backs up with Neal’s reputation as someone consistently engaged in everything within the high school experience.

Neal is looking at a potential future with the University of Southern California, where he could compete on the baseball team and also continue his passion with music. The end goal there is big.

“I want to be able to take what I’ve learned overseas and bring it to the community in Los Angeles, such as Compton or Long Beach — be able to show them,” he said. “Take what I’ve learned about the classical era or with the certain way of baseball and certain way of learning and be able to adapt it to how they’re being taught there.”

His vision is just as big when it comes to what that could accomplish.

“I wanna be able to reenergize the world and whether that’s in music, with sports, with education — I want to be able to put it all together because it’s really just an international love language for all,” Neal said.

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Valley Vista student making impact on baseball field and off it with voice