Really great insights from Al Leiter here, especially given the pregame adrenaline and distractions all around.
Right off the bat you can tell he absolutely loves everything about the moment. His son, Jack Leiter (10-3), is a college star and a presumptive top 5 draft pick. The scouting report on Jack is that he’s smart and cerebral; the kind of pitcher who will outthink the hitter, and who isn’t afraid to throw breaking balls at any count. Al preaches these same fundamentals as an analyst on the MLB Network, and even hints in the interview that his son’s strength lies in his ability to place all of his four pitches. It’s the blend of work ethic, competitiveness, brains, and skill that make for long pitching careers in the majors, and Jack appears to possess them all.
Before embarking on a professional career, though, Jack Leiter has a chance to help lead his Vanderbilt Commodores to a CWS title; the team’s second in three seasons. It’s an opportunity that his father never experienced.
Al Leiter went straight from high school into the Yankees minor league system in 1984, so the excitement and pageantry of college sports is something that he missed. It’s no surprise that a baseball enthusiast would be reveling at the scene in Omaha.
There’s still an air of innocence surrounding college baseball it seems—the sport lacks the 24-hour news cycle hype of NCAA football or basketball, while still making good on the promise of amateurism and schoolyard camaraderie. You can tell that the players are making friends and carving out stories that will be around for life; and their parents, though they’re relegated to the stands now, still get to take in the experience in a personal way, like their boys were once again playing in Little League.
The passion and joy for the game is palpable in every nook and cranny of Omaha; it’s everything that college sports, romanticized as a family atmosphere more so than a business, promises to be. So to see a father so completely in love with the game, getting the chance to comment on his own son in the biggest moment of his young career, on Father’s Day weekend no less, is really something special.
Jack Leiter is the presumptive starter for Vanderbilt on Monday night as they take on the Wolfpack of N.C. State. Win or lose, you know his father will be proud of him.