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Chasing The Dream: The John Leonard Story and Interview

Passing through or growing up in Western Pennsylvania you quickly realize one thing. The region is a hotbed for professional sports. The Steelers, Pirates and Penguins all have had numerous moments of success over their history. Championships are no stranger to the people of Western Pa.

John Leonard: Quick Stats

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks Twitter: @johnleonard9 

Height: 6′ 0″, Weight: 159 lb  Born: June 25, 1992 in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, US (Age 19)

Drafted:  Arizona Diamondbacks in the 9th round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft

Favorite Player Growing Up: Sammy Sosa

Chasing The Dream: The John Leonard Story

Passing through or growing up in Western Pennsylvania you quickly realize one thing. The region is a hotbed for professional sports. The Steelers, Pirates and Penguins all have had numerous moments of success over their history. Championships are no stranger to the people of Western Pa. The region has produced many athletes as well including NFL greats like Montana, Marino, and Namath. Beyond the NFL the region has produced golfer Arnold Palmer, basketball star Dejaun Blair, current and past major leaguers like Neil Walker and Honus Wagner and a slew of young hockey players breaking into the NHL. Someday down the line John Leonard may be added to that list. For this Western Pa native, the  journey to the majors has just begun, as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Leonard ready to make the play (photo courtesy of John Leonard)

In the 9th round of the 2011 draft the Diamondbacks selected Leonard out of Connellsville Area High School in Western Pennsylvania . For Leonard he had a decision to make, go pro or head to North Carolina State University where he had been offered a scholarship to play baseball. For Leonard the decision was pretty easy. Just days after the draft he found himself in Arizona signing a contract to become a member of the Diamondbacks organization. While he knew he would be missing out on the chance to go to NC State, Leonard was excited to begin his quest to become a major league baseball player.

Leonard is not the first member of his family to be drafted. Back in the 1982 draft his father was chosen by the Baltimore Orioles. In 2012, his brother Joe after putting up impressive numbers at the University of Pittsburgh was selected by the Atlanta Braves. Last season Joe Leonard played at Lynchburg the top class A affiliate of the Braves. As for John he found himself playing in the Arizona League with the Diamondbacks rookie league squad. In his first season of professional baseball he saw a steady dose of action both at second base and shortstop. He also got plenty of at bats, as he stepped to the plate 245 times. Leonard batted .229 for the season as he transitioned from high school to the speed of the pro game. Look for Leonard to build on his first seasons experience and grow when he gets his opportunities in his second season.

We will be following him all throughout 2012, you can follow him too on twitter at @johnleonard9 

Seven Questions with John Leonard

What was it like being drafted? What were you doing at the time and did you do anything to celebrate?

Being drafted was the best feeling I have ever experienced. It showed me that the work I have put in my whole life was worth all the while. Some of my family and myself were in the living room watching the draft on the computer. We celebrated by going out to eat.

Being from Western Pa and close to the city of Pittsburgh, did you think the Pirates may draft you? Did you have contact with any Pirates scouts?

I didn’t really have a lot of interest from the pirates, therefore if they would have drafted me it would have been quite a surprise. I played for the Pirates Scout Team in the fall that was coached by Fred Albert, a scout for Pittsburgh, so I talked with him about the draft a few times.

After being drafted you signed pretty fast even though you had an offer to go play college baseball at North Carolina St. What factored into your decision to play pro-ball over college ball?

My dream my whole life was to play professional baseball. The moment I had that chance to play, I didn’t want to let that pass. I knew in my heart that I wanted to start my professional career right away.

In your first season of pro-baseball what was the hardest part of transitioning from the high school game to the pro game?

I came to realize that the pro game is not even close to comparison to high school. The hardest part for me was probably the whole speed of the game. Pro ball plays at a way higher pace, from the pitching velocity to baserunners’ times to first on ground balls.

Not too many families end up with two sons playing professional baseball. Having an older brother already in professional ball has he been able to help you and give you some good advice?

My  brother Joe who is with Atlanta definitely helped me a whole lot. He has been able to pass down the advice he received from his coaches that could help me. He also helped me with what to expect going into the season.

What have you done this off-season to keep yourself busy?

I have been working out almost everyday to get stronger and better for the upcoming season. When I’m not doing that I am hanging out with some of my closer friends and just enjoying time home.

For the Diamondback fans who may not know much about you, can you give them a scouting report on your game and the style of player you are?

I would say that I am the type of player that wouldn’t “wow” anyone with my tools, but I know that each and every game I am doing everything and giving everything I can to make my team better and get wins.

Few For Fun

Favorite player growing up? Favorite non baseball athlete?

My favorite player growing up was Sammy Sosa. Favorite non baseball athlete is Dejuan Blair.

PS3 or Xbox? Whats your favorite games to play?

Xbox! Any sports games and Call of Duty

Whats in your Ipod or cd player right now?

When I am working out definitely rap but I listen to all country too

A special thanks to John Leonard for taking some time out of his off-season schedule to sit down and not only talk a little baseball but to provide us with some photos of him playing in the Arizona League as a member of the Diamondbacks. Once again please give him a follow at @johnleonard9 and follow us at @CTD_Sypien as we follow John and others during the 2012 season.

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