Long-time assistant Al Leyva to lead 2016 Gulls, alongside Kevin Long

The following information was provided by Nick Lima, Director of Media Relations for the Newport Gulls;

After 11 seasons, Newport Gulls Manager Mike Coombs is stepping aside, but he’s leaving the organization in good hands. Long-time Hitting Coach Al Leyva will be taking the reins as the seventh manager in team history when the Gulls kick off their 16th season in Newport this June.

The Gulls are also bringing back Pitching Coach Kevin Long for a sixth season. Long will continue to work with the Gulls bullpen, and has been promoted to an expanded role as the team’s Associate Head Coach.

“After four years as an assistant coach with this well-respected organization, I have enjoyed getting to know the community and fan base, and look forward to a very successful season,” Leyva said. “As a coach in the NECBL for nine years as both an assistant and manager, I will have the opportunity to bring all of my experience to this 2016 team.”

Coombs, who had Leyva and Long anchoring his staff since 2011, and who previously coached against each of his assistants, said he holds both in the highest regard, and is confident they will continue the Gulls storied success as the winningest franchise in NECBL history.

“Al and Kevin are both outstanding baseball coaches, with vast amounts of knowledge and experience,” Coombs said. “They will bring home championships to the City-by-the-Sea.”

Coombs, who won four championships since taking over during the 2005 season, credited Leyva and Long’s tireless development of Gulls players for the franchise’s success over the last five years.

In 2015, the Gulls offense, tuned by Hitting Coach Leyva, led the league in batting average (.275), runs scored, doubles, RBI, total bases, walks, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Under Leyva’s guidance, in 2012 the Gulls led the NECBL doubles and RBI (99 and 310, respectively, both league records), on-base percentage (.422), runs scored, and ranked second in batting average (.313) and slugging percentage (.503). Newport was an offensive force again in 2013, leading the NECBL in several categories, including doubles and RBI.

After coaching stints at the high school and college level, Leyva began his NECBL coaching career as the field manager of the Middletown (Conn.) Giants in 2003, leading them to the playoffs in his first season at the helm. In 2004 and 2005, Leyva served as an assistant coach with the Manchester Silkworms, making playoff appearances in both seasons.

In 2006, Leyva made his professional coaching debut with the Chicago White Sox rookie ball team in Bristol, Tennessee. Leyva served as an assistant coach to his brother, Nick Leyva, who is currently a Major League first base coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2007, Leyva returned to the NECBL as manager of the North Adams SteepleCats, taking them into the first round of the playoffs against the Newport Gulls, losing the series two games to none.  In 2008, he returned as manager of the Manchester Silkworms, taking them into the first round of the playoffs, also against the Gulls, losing in two games. The Gulls were the eventual division champions both years.

In his three prior seasons as an NECBL manager, Leyva owns a combined regular-season record of 57-67, including 18-23 with Middletown, 23-19 in North Adams, and 16-25 with Manchester – a .460 overall winning percentage – with a 1-6 postseason record.

Leyva resides in Chino, California with his wife, Connie, who was elected to the California State Senate in 2014, and their twin daughters, Allie and Jessie. Leyva had taken the 2014 NECBL season off to be with his family, leaving hitting and third base coaching duties in the capable hands of his friend (and fellow Californian) Coach Ty De Trinidad.

Alongside Leyva, Pitching Coach Kevin Long returns for his sixth consecutive year with the Gulls. Long’s experience and guidance has led the Gulls pitching staff to the lowest team ERA in the NECBL for three of the last five seasons.

“I’ve had such a great experience in the Newport community, and our organization has had such incredible success in the past, I’m thrilled to be back for another summer,” Long said. “I love coming back to this organization each and every year because of the community, the top-notch staff, the fans, the talented players… it’s very special. [General Manager] Chuck Paiva has done a great job maintaining a high standard in Newport, and continuing to raise the bar in excellence.”

In 2015, Long’s young pitching staff led the league in wins with 27, and was fourth in ERA (3.36), fourth in strikeouts (326), and second in opponent batting average (.229). Long’s pitching staff in 2013 led the NECBL in ERA (2.18), wins (30), and saves (13), and were second in the league with 381 strikeouts through 44 games.

His pitchers in 2012 and 2014 were each crucial to the Gulls Fay Vincent Sr. Cup wins – the bullpen, in particular, pulling off several consecutive remarkable performances en route to a short-staffed title win in 2014. In 2011, Long played an integral role in the Gulls success on the mound, as his pitchers led the NECBL in team ERA (2.59). The Gulls pitching staff, under Long, also led the NECBL in team ERA in 2012, despite it being the most productive offensive year in NECBL history.

In 2009, Long served as the pitching coach of the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League. In 2005 and 2006, Long made his NECBL debut as an assistant coach with the Danbury Westerners.

Long pursued his passion for coaching college baseball while still working as a detective for the Miami Police Department. Upon his retirement in 2003, Long accepted a position as a pitching coach on the Miami-Dade College staff. Many of his pitchers over the years have gone on to sign professional contracts, and in 2014, his Miami-Dade team was the national runner-up in the JUCO World Series.

Coombs, meanwhile, is retiring as perhaps the most successful manager in NECBL history. Since taking over as field manager four games in to the 2005 season, Coombs owns a career regular-season record of 308-153 – a .668 winning percentage – and has guided the Gulls to four NECBL titles (2005, 2009, 2012, and 2014) during his tenure. Under Coombs, the Newport Gulls became the winningest franchise in league history, and in 2012 were ranked as the overall No. 1 summer collegiate team nationally by Perfect Game USA.

Coombs owns a 44-17 all-time postseason record (a .721 winning percentage), giving him an NECBL-best 352-170 overall win-loss record as manager – a .674 winning percentage through 522 games. He coached his division’s all-star team a record seven times, and coached the NECBL All-Stars in an exhibition vs. Team USA, in addition to coaching the Gulls in numerous exhibitions versus Team USA, Team China, the Wareham Gatemen, and others.

His 2006 team still holds the league record for wins in a season (32-10), for which he was named NECBL Manager of the Year (he won the award again in 2009), and both the Gulls franchise and NECBL record books are chock full of records set – and reset – by teams and players he coached. For all 11 seasons he served as manager, the Gulls reached the 25-win mark, an uninterrupted streak the franchise has now maintained since 2001. Coombs earned his 300th regular-season victory with the Gulls at Cardines Field on July 17, 2015, and the teams he coached made playoff appearances for 11 consecutive seasons – including seven regular-season titles and seven divisional playoff championships.

“The way people treated me in Newport was wonderful,” said Coombs. “I couldn’t have asked for a better second home than Newport. I always loved coming back for that reason. The baseball is great; the players and coaches are great. Being a part of the Newport Gulls family is something special.”

The Newport Gulls, members of the 13-team New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded as the Rhode Island Gulls in 1998 in Cranston, R.I., before moving to Newport in 2001. In addition to recruiting, fielding, and developing a team of the nation’s top collegiate baseball athletes and attracting 50,000 fans annually to Cardines Field, the predominantly volunteer organization strives to benefit the youth of Newport County via summer camps, reading programs, fundraisers, scholarships, and charitable donations – totaling over $1 million since 2001. The Gulls are six-time champions of the NECBL – the winningest franchise in league history – and were ranked as the overall No. 1 summer collegiate baseball team in the country by Perfect Game USA in 2012.

For more information about the Newport Gulls, visit facebook.com/newportgulls, follow the Gulls on Twitter @NewportGulls or visit www.newportgulls.com.

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Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.

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