Beyond Left Field with Norm: Alon Leichman
Alon Leichman’s (pronounced Alone) dreams are like those of millions of other kids. To warm up in the bullpen deep in right field at Yankee Stadium, get the call, and jog out to the mound in the Bronx. Unlike most other 20-year olds, though, Alon has a spent a lifetime building his own baseball dreams. Alon was born and raised in Kibbutz Gezer, in Israel. The youngest of three children, Alon looked up to his older brother’s baseball playing, although it was soon obvious who the better ballplayer was. Alon’s dad played softball for decades (and continues to play), and Alon would watch him play at Gezer’s Hombo field. Soon, Alon was old enough to play on the Gezer field, one of the few real diamonds in Israel, and from an early age, his star shone bright.
At 10, he made the Israel Juvenile National team, and traveled to Holland for his first taste of international competition. Two seasons later, he was in Poland, followed by international competitions in Italy, Czech Republic, Croatia, and Israel.
It was in Croatia where Alon had perhaps his greatest game ever. Starting for Israel in the 2008 European Qualifier, Alon pitched eight innings, giving up only two earned runs while striking out nine. Unfortunately for Alon, Ernesto Pereira held Israel to just one run that day, pinning the loss on the young Leichman. Alon’s love of the game couldn’t be diminished by that loss. The man who says he loves just standing on that field, holding the ball in his hand, has impressed fans and observers in both Europe and the United States. He pitched at the MLB European Academy, and while his fastball tops out at 88 MPH, scouts were impressed with his control, movement, and his ability to change speeds. (courtesy of www.israelbaseball.org)
Who were your influences growing up?
Have to say that my family was a big influence on me. I looked up to my big brother a lot. He taught me never to quit when things are tough.
Derek Jeter was a big influence as well. I loved watching him play and tried to copy every move he made.
Where are you playing and how’s the season been so far?
I play for Cypress College in Orange County. This will be my last semester here before I transfer out to a four year university. Season is going well so far we are currently on a 6 game winning streak heading into conference play.
What’s the difference between playing in the US compared to Israel or other places in the World?
Playing in the US is very different than in Israel. Here in the US the level is definitely higher but the love for the game is not the same as back home in Israel and Europe.
What was it like playing for Brad Ausmus, Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler, and Andrew Lorraine? What did you take away from your WBC experience?
Playing for all these great guys and coaches was an eye opening experience for me. It was the first time that I got to taste how the pros go about things. I loved it. Learned a lot from just being around them and I want to thank them for that.
As for the WBC experience it ended with a bitter taste for us but it was by far the best two weeks of my life. I want to be back there in 2017.
You spent three years in the military? How has that experience helped you on the baseball diamond?
I think it made me appreciate the game much more. It made me pay attention to all my weaknesses and try and fix them.
Let’s look down the road. Where do you see baseball in Israel in 2017? Does Israel qualify for the WBC?
Baseball is heading in the right direction and with all the new people getting involved I see a bright future. I think that it is a great chance that Israel will compete in the 2017 WBC. Hopefully we get some of the coaches and players back and qualify.
What advice would you give to the younger players?
I was fortunate to have great guidance along the way and I try to pass along what I’ve learned to the kids. That is to work hard for what you love. Don’t let people with negative thoughts effect you and believe in your way. Don’t quit when times are hard. Stick to the process.
Alon, Good luck this season. Thanks for taking the time. Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you for having me. You guys have a nice thing going and good luck to you guys as well