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Manager Al Leyva returns for his sixth season with the Newport Gulls in 2017. This will be Al’s tenth year in the NECBL including years as Newport’s Hitting and 3rd Base Coach, 2011-2013, and 2015, before taking the reigns as Head Coach in 2016. However Leyva’s coaching experience doesn’t end with his NECBL experience. The Chino, California native was also the long- time head coach of Damien High School out in the “Golden State”.

Since Damien, Al spent two years as the hitting and 3rd base coach with Mt. San Antonio College and is now embarking on the next chapter of his coaching career as an assistant with Sacramento City College.

In 2016 Leyva led the Gulls to a record of 25-19 which ended up being good enough for second place in the Southern Division. Finishing just behind the eventual NECBL Champion Mystic Schooners. The Schooners coincidentally were the ones who handed Newport their final lose of the year down at Cardines Field. In the second game of their three game semi-final bout the Gulls unfortunately fell to Mystic 7-3 on August 8th. This has left Al and the rest of Gulls nation ready to avenge this defeat in 2017. Aiming to regain the title that Newport has been captured a lead leading six times.

“Last year we had another good season, reaching the 25 win total that has become a perennial goal here in Newport” Leyva said. The Newport Gulls Manager also noted that he was especially proud of how far his team got while facing injuries all season; “It was unfortunate that we were banged up all year but that’s what it takes, battling through injuries and going through stages are to be expected, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be”. He remains very optimistic this year as the Gulls ownership group has done another stellar job putting together this year’s roster. Seven 2016 draft picks make up this year’s Gulls roster. When asked about his incoming talent Al said “Chuck, Chris, Mark, Ron, and Greg, all did a tremendous job with this year’s roster, we have some really talented young ball players that I am excited to help develop”. Coach Leyva went on to say that “barring another injury plagued season we should among the favorites for another championship”.

In 2016 Under Leyva’s guidance the Gulls had six players be selected to the NECBL All- Star Game. One of these players, Steven Scott (Vanderbilt University) finished tied for second in Home Runs with 10. Scott wasn’t the only Gull Leyva helped land on the league’s statistical leader board. Andrew Gist (Georgia University) led the league in Strike Outs recording 52 in 47 innings and another 7 Ks in 6 innings of work during the playoffs. Although every student-athlete played an important role for Manager Al Leyva’s team, his catcher Troy Dixon (St. John’s University), arguably had the best season. Apparently the NECBL thought so naming him the league’s Most Valuable Player. “Troy came into the summer a little disappointed because he went undrafted”, Al stated, “but this gave him a chip on his shoulder, always working on the little things and getting out to the field early with me to get his work in”. Coach Leyva continued to talk about his player’s, stressing the importance of staying in a routine when going back to school. “ Often guys will see success here in the summer but it doesn’t translate to school. That is because they were here doing the same thing every day. It is crucial that these guys balance their studies with baseball efficiently to keep of the level of excellence attained here in Newport.”

After coaching stints at the high school and college level, Leyva began his NECBL coaching career as the field manager of the Middletown 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 Nike Leyva, who was the Pittsburgh Pirates 1st Base Coach in 2016 and has since been promoted to Senior Advisor of Baseball Operations within the same organization.

In 2007, Leyva returned to the NECBL as manager of the North Adams SteepleCats, taking them into the first round of the playoffs against whom else but the Newport Gulls, losing the series two games to none. In 2008, he returned as manager of the Manchester Silkworms, bringing them into the first round of the playoffs against those pesky Newport Gulls, once again falling two games to none. The Gulls went on to be named division champs both years.

After three seasons prior to last year’s 25 win campaign Leyva held a combined 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.

As previously mentioned; Leyva calls Chino, California home. Al has a wife Connie and twin daughters, Allie and Jessica. Connie was elected to the California State Senate in 2014. “The atmosphere here is truly something special” Al mentioned about Newport. “The weather is similar to Chino and in my opinion there is no better place in the summer time. I cannot make a statement about winter, but this community is unlike any other and I am glad to be back!”

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.