St. Johns County resident Patrick Leonard named to Triple-A All-Star Game

Fran Ruchalski/File St. Johns County resident Patrick Leonard will play in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 12. The third baseman in the Tampa Bay Rays organization is hitting .283 with 46 runs scored, 41 RBIs and 12 steals. In this June 2015 photo, Leonard was in fielding position for Double-A Montgomery against the Jacksonville Suns at Bragan Field.

The first time Patrick Leonard set foot in the Pacific Northwest will be an experience he will not soon forget.

 

The former Bartram Trail and Creekside standout has played baseball all across America, but he has never visited Washington state.

That will change next week when he suits up in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Tacoma, Washington. First pitch is scheduled for Wednesday night at 9:05 p.m. The game will be televised on MLB Network.

Leonard, 24, will be a reserve infielder. Entering Friday’s game against Toledo, Leonard led the Durham Bulls with a .283 batting average. He has scored 46 runs, driven in 41, stolen 12 bases and possesses a .344 on-base percentage.

As he walked toward the Durham Bulls Athletic Park earlier this week, Leonard discussed the best first half of his six-year professional career.

This season was his second stint in the Bull City. Leonard began the 2016 season in Triple-A, but was optioned to Double-A Montgomery in late May. This year Leonard admitted he is more comfortable at the second highest level of the pro baseball ladder.

“He took it as a positive,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg told the North State Journal earlier this season. “He went down there and played very very well and earned the right to come back here.

“He’s definitely earned the right to stay,” Sandberg added.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to be reunited with Sandberg, who was his manager in Advance-A Port Charlotte, or hitting coach Ozzie Timmons, who held the same position at Double-A Montgomery.

“I have never hit as much as I have this offseason,” Leonard said. “I hit five times a week in the two months leading up to spring training. I hit with (Washington Nationals second baseman) Daniel Murphy at (Jacksonville University). I hit with Ladson Montgomery — he has been my best friend as long as I can remember. I hit with him every day.”

Murphy leads the majors with a .340 batting average and will be making his third appearance in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game next week in Miami. Meanwhile, Montgomery, a former standout at Florida State and Creekside may know Leonard’s swing like few others and encouraged him to emphasize the cage work.

Working with the two of them is what fueled Leonard’s fast start to the season. In April, he was named the International League’s Player of the Month after hitting .412 and scoring 17 runs in 22 games.

“I never had a month like that,” Leonard said. “That was unbelievable. I carried that over to May. At the end of May and the beginning of June, I started to struggle. What I’m happy with is I didn’t let it snowball. I continued to play good defense. I remembered before if I started to struggle, I would doubt myself at the plate or doubt myself on defense. I was happy that I was able to stay even-keeled and weather the storm.”

Indeed he has. Over the last 10 games, Leonard is hitting .306 with four runs scored and two RBIs. During that period he has been overtaken for the team RBI lead by outfielder Jake Bauers. Leonard entered Friday’s game with 41 RBIs in 80 games, while Bauers has 42 for the Bulls who are 53-33.

The 30th Triple-A All-Star Game will feature some of baseball’s most coveted prospects, including 12 of the top 100 players in Baseball America’s midseason rankings.

This will be Leonard’s third appearance in an all-star game. In 2014, as a member of the Charlotte Stone Crabs he played in the Florida State League All-Star Game. Later that year, he played in the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, a contest that included names like Aaron Judge, Corey Seager and Francisco Lindor.

What will separate next week’s trip to the Pacific Northwest will be that his family will make the trip with him.

“When they are announcing your name at the game (with) all the All-Stars, that’s when it will sink in,” Leonard said. “You will hear all the names out there and you will hear them call your name.”

 

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