Al Leiter doesn’t desire a Father’s Day current from his son, Jack.
This journey, to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., with the complete household to observe Jack pitch for defending nationwide champion Vanderbilt, is best than any materials reward he may obtain. So is the trip Al, his spouse Lori and their three daughters — Lindsay, Carly and Katelyn — have been on, as Jack has developed into one of many premier baseball prospects within the nation.
“Oh my God, he’s been the gift that keeps giving,” Al, the previous Mets and Yankees left-hander who now works for MLB Network and as an adviser for the Mets, instructed The Post in a telephone interview. “He’s brought us a lot of joy.”
Jack, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-hander who grew up in Summit, N.J., is a projected top-five pick in next month’s MLB draft, if he doesn’t return to Vanderbilt. He’ll ultimately be the most recent in a protracted line of Leiters who’ve pitched professionally — following Al, his brothers Mark and Kurt, and Mark’s son, Mark Jr. Jack has the potential to be the perfect of them all, with a fastball within the high-90s, a hammer curve, a high quality slider and a changeup.
“He certainly has that kind of stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher,” mentioned a scout aware of Jack, who in contrast him to David Cone due to his body, no-nonsense mentality and aggressive fireplace.
“It just feels surreal,” Lori mentioned. “It’s amazing.”
Al didn’t push Jack into baseball. But his son was all the time across the sport. Jack was 6 months previous in 2000, the 12 months Al reached the World Series towards the Yankees with the Mets, and Jack all the time had an affinity for pitching. As a child on his journey workforce, he wasn’t one of many common pitchers as a result of he was so small, however would throw on the aspect. He introduced a ball and glove with him in every single place.
Around the ninth grade, Al gave Jack a exercise plan he had utilized in his time within the main leagues, and Jack by no means veered from it. He developed right into a high prospect by the tip of highschool at Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., and had he not held a scholarship to Vanderbilt, doubtless would have been a first-round draft choose in 2019 (he was selected in the 20th round by the Yankees).
At Vanderbilt, the 21-year-old has additional blossomed. This 12 months, he went 10-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 96 innings and helped the Commodores attain the College World Series, which they gained in 2019, the final time it was contested. He pitched the school’s first no-hitter since 1971 whereas hanging out 16, and is anticipated to start out Vanderbilt’s second sport in Omaha on Monday. Both coach Tim Corbin and Vanderbilt teammate and fellow high pitching prospect Kumar Rocker marveled at Jack’s focus and consistency, his ardour for pitching and dedication to his craft.
“He gets to the facility and it’s full-on go,” Corbin mentioned. “He’s wired to compete every single day.”
When Jack was a highschool senior at Delbarton School, Al stepped away from his job as a YES Network Yankees announcer to immerse himself in that season. This 12 months, Al flew all the way down to Vanderbilt with Lori nearly each weekend. He sits behind residence plate charting his son’s pitches, similar to he did by highschool.
“He’s focused,” Lori mentioned. “I think that keeps him from being nervous.”
Everything Jack goes by and what he hopes to expertise, Al has been there, carried out that. Al was a second-round choose of the Yankees within the 1984 MLB draft. He was chosen to 2 All-Star groups and gained three World Series titles throughout a 19-year profession that noticed him win 162 video games, compile a 3.80 ERA and strike out 1,974 batters.
Al, 55, is aware of how arduous it’s to achieve the massive leagues, and he additionally is aware of how tough it can be in the event you attempt to skip steps. That’s why each father and son insist they haven’t even mentioned the draft. Al’s mantra to his son is to be the place your toes are. Enjoy the second. Focus in your subsequent begin, not your future.
“I remind him to know when to celebrate, know when to smile, know when to laugh, know when to be happy, know when to pat yourself on the back,” Al mentioned. “I think you get in this tunnel of trying to be your best, trying to get better and working hard, being dedicated and having a process, program and routine, you kind of lose sight of, ‘Hey man, step back, know when to turn the music off, know when to dance, know when to laugh and smile and be with your boys.’ ”
Al helps Jack essentially the most following his struggles, rare as they might be. After a foul outing, the primary query he asks his son is how he feels bodily. Then he tells him what he did effectively.
“Any kid who’s pitching at this level kind of understands what they did wrong. They don’t need to hear it right after,” Jack mentioned. “My dad kind of knows that being somebody who pitched at a higher level. He says that all that matters [is your health], because you’re going to have ups and downs. If you’re lucky enough, you’re going to have 30 more of those bad outings in your career. That kind of puts it in perspective, like, ‘OK, it’s not the end of the world.’ Sometimes it feels like it after an outing that doesn’t go your way, but it’s really not.”
Once, the elder Leiter despatched his son clips of his personal worst outings. Even the perfect pitchers, he instructed his son, battle.
“That’s always kind of comforting to see,” Jack mentioned.
Al wouldn’t say he’s stunned to see how far his son has come, simply due to how arduous he has labored. But if he had been instructed this might occur when Jack was an underclassmen in highschool, he would have thought it gorgeous. Jack, a stellar pupil who Al jokes all the time had a excessive degree of “give a s–t,” already throws tougher than his father ever did, has higher mechanics and is extra composed on the mound.
“I played 19 years [in the major leagues]. He’s got some work to do to catch up to dear old Dad, but as far as where he is now and where I was at his age, it’s not even close,” Al mentioned. “He’s way better than me.”
For years, Jack was often called Al’s son, following within the footsteps of the longtime main league pitcher. But as he developed into this massive prospect, first in highschool and now at Vanderbilt, it has modified. Now Al is thought considerably as Jack’s father.
“I like that,” Al mentioned. “Damn right. He deserves it.”
It’s the perfect Father’s Day current he may ask for.