Randy Leek ’99: A life both in baseball and in business| August 16, 2010
Perhaps Randy Leek '99 is just lucky that he throws with his left hand. Maybe that's the big secret to his longevity in professional baseball. Or after 11 seasons in pro ball, it might be that he knows a thing or two about the game. And if you live in New York State, Leek is available to share some of his secrets.
"We couldn't be happier with the way our first two winters have gone," says Leek of his new training facility, Hitter's Club Inc., which is located in Farmington, NY. "We're just figuring out how to make some things happen in the summertime as well."
Leek was a four-year starter for the Tribe as a pitcher, and also played outfielder. He was picked up by the Detroit Tigers in their amateur draft in 1999 and has played in the farm systems of the L.A. Dodgers, the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals. Currently, he pitches for the Long Island Ducks, where he reigns as the leader in all-time wins.
For Leek, who majored in business at the College, baseball and business have always been a joint proposition. Unlike other athletes who are shocked by the business side of sports after leaving collegiate sports, Leek embraced it. So the transition for him from player to coach and owner of a training facility is not a real shock to his system.
"I've always been a baseball player, that's all I really wanted to do," says Leek. "Like every kid growing up, I thought I was going to play in the big leagues and have no worries after that. But obviously that's change a bit."
"For years I have given lessons during the winter when I was home during the off season, so I know that part of it. And it's been going really well. I think we're doing a pretty good job."
Looking back on his transition from college player to professional, Leek says that the biggest change for him was travel and lack of practice. Spring training, he says, was the practice. Playing is playing and off days are truly off days.
"There are not too many ‘off days,'" he says. "And you really need them."
Leek stresses that there was always work in the field by the position players and catchers but the biggest difference was playing everyday.
"Getting used to that grind of going at it every day was tough," says Leek. "In college, you'd play on the weekends and once, maybe twice during the week - which is a big jump from high school. As you move up the levels, there are more games to be played and the competition continues to get better and better."
But his memories of professional baseball are different than one might think. His favorite time playing baseball was not for a major league franchise or with an independent team. It was while he was playing in the Dominican Republic, which has produced some of Major League Baseball's most dynamic players - from home run machine David Ortiz to dynamic short stop Jose Reyes.
"That was the most fun I ever had playing baseball," says Leek. "I absolutely loved it. It's a different atmosphere - and that is hard to explain to someone who hasn't been there and seen it for themselves. The passion and love that they have for the game - they are just crazy."
Leek reports that many of the "antics" of the Latin players, which often make the Top Plays on Sportscenter, are just a toned down version of how they react to baseball in their home countries.
"The culture around baseball is just different," says Leek. "Being down there taught me how to have fun playing. I think for the first seven years or so that I was playing pro ball, before I went down in the Dominican leagues one winter, I took everything so seriously. I think I forgot to have fun."
Leek says that he has nothing but good things to say about his experience in the Dominican leagues, where he spent two winters. He says that he incorporates the fun attitude that his Dominican teammates taught him into what he teaches at Hitter's Club Inc., today.
One of the ways he gives back to baseball, and also to William and Mary, is to get back to Williamsburg every so often to catch up with the current team and baseball staff.
"I keep in touch with (Tribe baseball head coach) Frank (Leoni). I give him a call every once in a while to see how things are going," says Leek. "Actually one of my students, who is a senior in high school up here, will be attending a W&M summer camp. When I do get by to visit my brother, who lives in the Williamsburg area, I do stop by to say hello."
Leek credits his time at the College for getting him ready both for a life in athletics and in business.
"They didn't give me any free passes because I was an athlete," laughs Leek. "I had to make sure I got my work done, and I appreciated that."
As for now, Leek and his partners, Kevin Haverbusch and Rob Cafiero, are excited to share tips on hitting, pitching and catching with the next generation of baseball players.
"I never got to the big leagues," says Leek. "My partners and I thought this is a way to stay involved in the game that we love, and also to help teach the kids coming up."