College picks Bates coach to lead Panther baseball
MIDDLEBURY — Mike Leonard, for the past six years the Bates College baseball coach, has been hired to lead the Middlebury baseball program.
Leonard, a former University of Connecticut standout and Boston Red Sox farmhand, takes over as Panther coach from the recently retired Bob Smith and becomes just the fourth baseball coach at Middlebury since 1952.
Middlebury Director of Athletics Erin Quinn praised Leonard’s baseball and coaching background and his community orientation.
“We are thrilled to have Mike Leonard as the next head baseball coach at Middlebury,” Quinn said. “Mike’s playing and coaching experience provides a wealth of knowledge that will be invaluable to our players. More importantly, he is an educator with a broad perspective on the value of athletics at a NESCAC institution. The members of the search committee were particularly impressed with how he articulated the ways student-athletes can contribute to Middlebury College as students, athletes and as members of the community.”
Leonard’s team’s compiled a record of 114-111 at Bates, including three 20-win seasons and a 23-17 mark in 2012. He said he was happy to follow in Smith’s footsteps.
“I am honored to be able to work at Middlebury College and coach the baseball program that has been long guided by Bob Smith, one of the most respected coaches in the country,” said Leonard.
A former Red Sox minor leaguer and All-Big East catcher at the University of Connecticut, Leonard led the Bobcats to the NESCAC tournament in 2014 and 2015. In the spring of 2016, Leonard’s team concluded with a 14-21 mark and 4-8 in the conference. Under Leonard, Bates placed five players on the NESCAC All-Conference First Team, and two players on the league’s second team.
A four-year starting catcher for NCAA Division I Connecticut, Leonard was an All-Big East selection in 2002 and 2003, and he remains on the Huskies’ top-15 career lists in hits (205), runs batted in (118), at bats (648) and games played (177).
He was a team captain, a Dee Rowe Athletic Scholarship winner and a Big East Academic All-Conference honoree. During his college years, Leonard also played with the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Leonard starred at Rockville (Conn.) High School, and was named both the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year and Hartford Courant Player of the Year. In 2014, Leonard was inducted into the Rockville High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Leonard signed as a free agent with the Red Sox after his playing days at UConn, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2004. He spent four years as a catcher in Boston’s minor-league system, reaching the AA level with the Portland Sea Dogs. He concluded his professional career in 2009 as a player-coach under former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman with the Worcester Tornadoes of the independent Can-Am League.
Leonard began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant coach at St. Lawrence University in 2008 and 2009, with primary responsibilities for pitchers, catchers, hitters and strength and conditioning. At St. Lawrence, he obtained a master of education degree. In 2010, Leonard became the head coach at Elms College in Massachusetts. At Elms, he instituted the “Blazer Buddies” after-school mentor program that served 15 area elementary school children.
Now, Leonard said, he is ready to boost Panther baseball.
“I will look to guide the baseball program to a higher level,” he said. “I know that the student-athletes in the baseball program as well as the Middlebury baseball alumni are all hungry for a trip back to the NESCAC tournament and conference titles. I am excited to work with the current as well as incoming players to write the next chapter in Middlebury’s baseball history.”
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