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Recent Bates graduate Ryan Sonberg '13 is now the first baseball professional to come out of Bates College since Jason Coulie '00 played in the Angels' minor league system.
Sonberg, a two-time First Team All-NESCAC shortstop, signed a contract to play in the independent Pecos League, for the Taos Blizzard last summer. Sonberg earned the invitation after performing well at a recent pro tryout arranged by an Arizona Diamondbacks scout.
The 2014 season looks to be another step towards the top with many returning players and a large senior class.
Mike Leonard, a former Boston Red Sox minor leaguer and All-Big East catcher at the University of Connecticut, has been appointed as head baseball coach at Bates College.
Leonard, who served as head baseball coach at Elms College in 2010, takes over a Bates team that went went 25-11 in 2010 to break the team record for wins. The Bobcats return all but one starter from the 2010 season.
"I'm thrilled to become the head baseball coach at Bates College," Leonard said. "This program has been moving in an outstanding direction, and I look forward to taking it to an even higher level."
Leonard was drafted by the Red Sox following an All-Big East career at the University of Connecticut, where he earned his bachelor's degree in political science in 2004. He spent four years as a catcher in the Red Sox minor league system, including two months with the Double A Portland Sea Dogs. He concluded his professional career in 2009 as a player-coach under former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman with the Worcester Tornadoes of the independent Can-Am League.
"We are very pleased and excited about Mike's appointment," said Bates Director of Athletics Kevin McHugh. "He is the person best suited to continue the arc of success that has been established with Bates baseball."
McHugh said he was impressed by Leonard's coaching philosophy and his plan for the team's future, which combines "a unique blend" of the influences of some of his former coaches, such as his two head coaches at Connecticut, Andy Baylock and Jim Penders; St. Lawrence head coach Tom Fay; and Red Sox major league coaching assistant Rob Leary, a former minor league instructor for the organization. McHugh also cited Leonard's playing background, his coaching experience and "the unique and highly applicable lessons that he learned while playing professionally."
Leonard began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant coach at St. Lawrence University in 2008 and 2009, with primary responsibilities for pitchers, catchers, hitters and strength and conditioning. At St. Lawrence he earned a master of education degree in 2009.
Appointed head coach at Elms College in 2010, he led the Blazers to a 10-22 record. Leonard also instituted the "Blazer Buddies" after-school mentor program that served 15 elementary school children.
Leonard will assume his duties on Nov. 19. He replaces Bates head coach Edwin Thompson, who resigned in September to accept an assistant coach position at Duke University. Thompson led the Bobcats to a 12-22 record in 2009, his first year at Bates, then headed the remarkable 25-11 turnaround in 2010. Eight starters from the team will return for 2011, including three All-NESCAC players in seniors Chris Burke (North Andover, Mass.), Noah Lynd (Meriden, N.H.) and Jake Simon (Waterford, Conn.).
"I know that Bates, the athletic department and Kevin McHugh are committed to the same kind of athletic and academic excellence that I am," said Leonard. "I really look forward to being one piece of that."
A four-year starting catcher for Division I Connecticut, Leonard was an All-Big East selection in 2002 and 2003, and he remains on the Huskies' top-15 career lists in hits (205), runs batted in (118), at bats (648) and games played (177). He was a team captain, a Dee Rowe Athletic Scholarship winner and a Big East Academic All-Conference honoree. During his college years he also played with the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Leonard starred at Rockville (Conn.) High School, and was named Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year and The Hartford Courant Player of the Year.
During his stint with the Red Sox, he played for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, the Lowell Spinners, and the Greenville Drive before reaching Portland. While with the Spinners in 2005, Leonard competed alongside such future major leaguers as Jed Lowrie, Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Louie Bernardini started his first year as Assistant Coach of the Bates College Baseball program this August. A starting pitcher and captain for Wheaton College of Massachusetts, Bernardini collected recognition for All-Conference, All-Regional, and All-National team selections. In 2006, Bernardini went to the DIII College World Series with Wheaton, falling short in the National Championship Game. The Maine native also had strong summer showings in both the NYCBL, where with a record of 8-0 he was pitcher of the year in 2006 and started against the Russian National team, and the NECBL, with starts against both the Dominican Republic National team and Team USA.
Prior coaching positions include a summer as a pitching coach in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League with the West Hampton Aviators, Assistant coach for the NYCBL Saratoga Phillies, and for the past two years, Bernardini has been the pitching coach, graduate associate and teaching fellow at Springfield College. At Bates, Bernardini will act as the Pitching Coach and assist with camps and recruiting.