Aug. 20, 2012
WASHINGTON - Georgetown University senior baseball player Justin Leeson (Exton, Pa./West Chester) had a tough decision to make this summer. He was selected in the Major League Baseball Draft and was close to fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing as a professional.
Instead, he chose to return to the Hilltop for his senior year and to finish his degree in government. While contemplating his decision to return, Leeson had the chance to live out another dream by playing in the fame Cape Cod Summer League in Massachusetts. Leeson played most of the season with the Bourne Braves and wrapped up the experience last weekend, helping to lead his team to the semifinals. He finished the summer batting .248 with seven doubles, including a .268 average in the playoffs.
"The Cape League is one of the most prestigious collegiate summer leagues in the country, so that itself was awesome to be a part of," Leeson said via e-mail. "However, the best part of the whole summer was the fact that I learned more about the mental and physical side of baseball in 75 days than I have in most of my baseball career. Getting to the yard everyday three or four hours early was a pleasure, and something I looked forward to as I could bounce ideas off other guys and also see what other guys do to prepare for games."
Leeson started the summer with the Harwich Mariners, the same team that former Hoya teammate Mike Garza (C'12) played for last year and helped lead to the league title while earning MVP honors for the playoffs. He played only five games there before finishing the season with Bourne.
"Once I got my feet wet with about a week and a half of practice, the games started and the whole experience became real," he said. "I was a temporary contract guy so I wasn't solidified on a roster until I switched teams (in late June). I went over to Bourne and they helped me get going and I settled in and the fun started. The first game I realized really quickly that it was indeed as competitive as everyone said, and I would have to be ready every day."
Leeson said that the chance to learn from players and coaches around the country was an added bonus. "When I was with Harwich the head coach, Steve Englert, said "The guy who is the most mentally tough throughout the summer ups and downs will be the most successful in the summer" and that really rang true," he explained. "And from speaking with Garza last year about his experience, I knew it would have to be an even keel mental approach and keep my pregame preparations the same every day."
One of his teammates in Bourne, Ohio State's Jaron Long, had his father come speak to the team. His father, Kevin, is the New York Yankees hitting coach. "He said something very similar to what Mike (Garza) and Coach Englert said, you must maintain an even keel approach," Leeson said. "He even cited Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson as examples of that approach. It was really nice to have an opportunity to talk to such a tremendously successful hitting coach and get to hear what he had to say."
More than anything, the summer was a chance for Leeson to show that he belonged in a league where the best players in the country appear every summer.
"From a personal standpoint the summer was a blast because I was challenged every single night, but more importantly I met a ton of guys who were all on board with wanting nothing more than a chance to continue playing baseball," Leeson said. "I was really blessed to have had an opportunity to play and I appreciate all that Coach (Pete) Wilk did to help me get situated up there."
"What I learned by being challenged by the nation's best players every single night was that I needed to maintain confidence and play as if it was the first at bat of the season regardless of what my batting average and other statistics were. Every night was a blessing and most importantly, a chance to get better, and I feel like I did just that every night. I look forward to the fall season, and look forward to seeing what the Hoyas can do in the spring."