Aug. 8, 2012
WASHINGTON - Georgetown rising senior baseball player Justin Leeson (Exton, Pa./West Chester) has been spending his summer playing in the famed Cape Cod League, where he will help lead the Bourne Braves in the playoffs, which start on Thursday night. This story is courtesy of Eddie Lockhart from the Bourne Braves.
By August, the grind of the Cape League can get to players who start dreaming of some time off back home. For Justin Leeson, nothing could be further from his mind.
"I am pumped man," Leeson said of heading to the playoffs, "I'm trying to get a ring...I saw my buddy[`s]...ring from Harwich last year, I'm trying to get one."
With the Braves defeating Hyannis Sunday night, Leeson will have his chance to get a ring of his own as the victory secured Bourne's spot in the tournament.
As the injuries and departures have stacked up for the Braves, Leeson has played a bigger role in the team's success. In fact, Leeson, who has taken over right field for all-star Mason Robbins (Southern Miss), also took up Robbins' mantle as Bourne's late game hero, hitting a walk off double on July 30.
"[Harwich head coach] Steve Englert told us, the guy who's the most mentally tough is going to be successful at the end of the year," Leeson said.
Leeson has taken those words to heart as he has come on strong in the last few weeks of the season. He has become so important to the Braves that he even batted clean-up for a game, something he is not used to as he bats lead off at Georgetown. "Last summer I batted clean up one game, before then [the last time] was probably high school," Leeson said.
Leeson has hit all over the line-up for Bourne which he has enjoyed because it allows him to see all different types of pitches and strategies from the opposition. "You get to see all facets of the game," he explained, "sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, you're going to get fastballs, in the four hole I didn't see a first pitch fastball until my last at bat [of the night]. Your approach stays the same; I'm looking for a fastball, reacting otherwise unless the pitcher is tipping his pitches."
It has been an interesting road to this point for Leeson who started the season as a Harwich Mariner. "I appreciate everything Harwich did but things worked out and Bourne needed an outfielder...I stepped in and haven't looked back since," Leeson said of switching teams.
While Leeson harbors no ill-will towards Harwich, as he knew he was there as a temporary player, he admits that when he sees the Mariners in the opposing dugout he has a little extra motivation.
Leeson has loved the challenge that playing against the top college players in the country night-in-and-night-out has given him, citing it as the highlight of his Cape experience.
"You know you're going to see...guys throwing 95, just come out and challenge yourself every day," Leeson said, "it's humbling to come out here, you go 0-4 with four Ks the first night out...this is the real deal. You just have to keep grinding, keep coming early, keep getting swings in."
Leeson showed how much he likes to go against the best when he was asked which pitcher he would want a second crack at. He chose Aaron Blair (Marshall) of the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox because of how talented he believes Blair is. Leeson learned a lot about baseball on the Cape from a Hoya teammate, and friend, Mike Garza, who played third base for the Mariners a season ago.
"He told me about it," Leeson said, "it was a really nice experience getting to hear what the Cape's all about. I have seen the movie `Summer Catch,' I've dreamed about playing on the Cape, it was a real nice blessing to come here."
One of Leeson's dreams has become a reality this summer, now, as the Braves head into the postseason, he will look to fulfill another dream, picking up a championship ring. The road to the top will start on Thursday night with Bourne's opponent yet to be determined.