Former San Francisco Giants player keeps high schoolers’ dreams alive with out-of-state tournaments

Baseball

(KTXL) — For those who play baseball, either at the youth or high school level, they may have had it the roughest during the pandemic. 

Entire seasons over the spring and summer were canceled. 

At best, it won’t be until this coming spring when they can play in the state again, meaning almost two full years between seasons. 

But one former San Francisco Giants player is doing all he can to keep their dreams alive. 

You don’t have to be a Giants fan to remember the “Hac-Man.”

Jeffery Leonard played seven seasons during the ‘80s with the Giants, even taking home the National League Championship Series MVP award in 1987. 

“I had wonderful days with the Giants. A lot of fun just being around the guys, talking mess and having fun, you know,” Leonard told FOX40. “Going through the process, that preparation thing, you know. I kind of miss that.” 

Leonard has replaced that fix at age 65 by running the appropriately titled Hac-Man Baseball the past couple of years. It’s a competitive travel program for high-school-aged kids. 

“I stress the mental game and the emotional game,” Leonard said. “Everybody can throw a ball or run, catch and hit. But it’s the other things that get you through, that set you apart.” 

But like most things, when the pandemic hit, Hac-Man Baseball had to take a seat on the bench. 

It later returned during the end of summer. 

“The hard part was no games,” Leonard said. “So, we did a lot of scrimmages, a lot of drills.” 

“Everybody out here is getting more work than people who are sitting at home doing whatever and doing school by themselves,” said Gabrial Lopez with Hac-Man Baseball. “So, we’re getting more work than most, so it’s nice.” 

All throughout the state games at the high school and youth levels are not allowed right now. 

So, Leonard is taking his teams out of state to Arizona for a chance to play in tournaments in front of college recruiters and professional scouts. 

“All the seniors and juniors, you know, those guys, especially the seniors, this has impacted them tremendously,” Leonard said. “They have to get out. They have to move and go to the other states just to play and to be seen, so it plays a huge part.” 

“You know, we’ve had a little bit of feedback since he’s been out there from schools, and it’s definitely an opportunity he wouldn’t have if he weren’t in school and playing out here,” said parent Tanya Bahlke. 

Up next for Hac-Man Baseball is an out-of-state tournament in Arizona in early November. They will then take a two month break and get right back at it in late January. 

“They’ve lost so much already. So, just being able to get out on the field and vent a little bit and have some fun, see their friends and do what they love — it’s big,” Leonard said. 

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