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Al Leiter on Pine Crest, Marlins & More

Mention that Al Leiter is coaching at Pine Crest, and the response goes something like this:

“What, does he have a kid there or something?”

Well, yes…in second grade (and in fifth and in seventh). So even a cynic might point to a few more reasons as to why the former Marlins ace – who easily could be coaching some pro team, or at least could be calling more than 50 or so games for the Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network up in New York – is commuting every day from his Weston home to the Fort Lauderdale private school.

As documented here in today’s Miami Herald, Leiter loves coaching. But he also loves Pine Crest’s academics. A lot. He compared Pine Crest to colleges like Stanford and Northwestern – schools he almost attended before selecting the University of Florida and ultimately signing with the Yankees.

In fact, when asked if he hoped his presence as a part-time pitching coach for the Panthers would be a recruiting tool, Leiter said yes – as long as the incoming player is a committed student.

“Absolutely I hope so,” Leiter said, “I don’t know if it will. But yes, if there was somebody who was worthy and able academically to get in, and was a good athlete – particularly a good baseball player – you bet I hope my presence and being around the program would help that particular student.”

Not exactly what you’d expect from a guy who spent 19 years in the Majors and (assumedly) knows little but hardball. Guess that assumption is wrong.

Here are a few more tidbits from Leiter:

-Just because he loves Pine Crest’s academics, that doesn’t mean he wants passive baseball players. “Some of the kids are so used to kind of an intramural kind of mentality, that winning isn’t always a [priority],” Leiter said. “It’s not just about participation – it’s about winning. … There are a handful of guys that actually do want to do well and want to win, and it’s not fair that you have a group of guys on any team that are just there to put it on their resume.”

-Why South Florida? Not just his stint with the Marlins. Leiter and his Plantation-native wife bought their Weston house in 1990, after Leiter fell for the area during his numerous spring-training stints. And after he retired in 2005, he said, “it made sense that we came back to our home that we maintained.”

-Leiter, who after a World Series reuinion last year told The (Newark, N.J) Star-Ledger that the struggles of the Marlins franchise were a "travesty" and a "tragedy," had a few positive things to say about the new stadium deal. "I believe creating and having and maintaining a state-of-the-art Major League facility helps the community," he said. "And I believe had we lost [the Marlins], it would have been a big loss."

Leiter wasn’t as happy with the site of the new stadium, saying building it at the Orange Bowl site means “you kind of cut yourself off from Broward or Palm Beach County.” Still, he said, “that’s where the money was, and that’s what they needed to follow.”

-On the Broward baseball front, Leiter had some words for Pine Crest’s District 14-3A rival American Heritage. Good ones. “I’m not good with names,” Leiter said, but he alluded to first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Adrian Nieto – both top-20 prospects, according to RISE Magazine – along with the entire team (13-1 after dropping Russell (Ala.) County Friday night). “I know why they are who they are,” Leiter said.

--Patrick Dorsey