Sean Leary, ‘93, who is entering his 26th year as head coach of the baseball team, is one of Lehigh’s longest tenured coaches.
Before Leary even started coaching, he spent four years as an infielder for the Mountain Hawks, starting at shortstop his senior year.
Since beginning as the interim head coach in 1996, Leary has won two Patriot League titles and been named Patriot League Coach of the Year twice. Several players, most recently Levi Stoudt, ‘19, have been drafted to the MLB under Leary.
“It’s my alma mater,” Leary said. “Obviously this is a very special place to be, and when I was afforded the opportunity 26 years ago, I honestly had envisioned that it would be a long term commitment, and I looked forward to building something special here with the program.”
Since Leary took over as head coach, the Lehigh baseball program has grown significantly, having won at least 20 games in six straight seasons prior to the early shut down of the 2020 season.
In recent years, Leary has helped Lehigh accrue an increased presence in the MLB Draft, with several current players as potential draft picks for 2021, including top prospect junior pitcher Mason Black.
“(Leary) jokes around (that) when he played, it was glorified high school,” said pitching coach Sean Buchanan. “He’s built this. It has been on his back that this program has been built, and it has become what it is today. I truly think it’s a program that’s ready to make some serious noise on a regional and national level.”
According to his coaching assistants and players, Leary’s care for both individual players and the team both on and off the field has helped elevate him as a head coach.
Hitting coach and recruiting coordinator A.J. Miller said Leary is committed to taking care of others more than himself.
“I think that’s why he has such good relationships with anybody and everyone involved in this industry because he genuinely cares, and people can see that,” Miller said.
Senior catcher Joe Yupp also emphasized how much care Leary has for the players he coaches.
“Especially during the COVID times back to when we got shut down last season, (Leary) is just constantly checking in, seeing how everyone’s doing … outside the baseball field, he has such a care for the players he brought into this program,” Yupp said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to the preparation of sports programs at Lehigh, Leary said he has made sure his team stays sharp for the upcoming season.
Even still, Leary said expectations for his team have not wavered despite the limited practices and in-person interaction.
“The pandemic has added an element of discipline,” Leary said. “You have to be able to work sometimes in different ways, but our kids are pretty motivated to put in the work to make a championship run. As challenging as it’s been, I don’t think it’s changed our mindset of preparing hard.”
For the team, Leary’s communication during the summer and fall has been key to its success and keeping the focus.
Senior pitcher Sam Wurth said Leary has helped the team stay focused through his dedication to the team’s well-being.
“I think he does a very good job of keeping us in the loop (and) informing us on important information,” Wurth said. “Also just on the checking side of things. He texts our players all the time asking how classes are going, how their mental health is and how they are adapting to the whole COVID situation.”
Despite the continued uncertainty of a spring season, Wurth is hoping the team can have a season and said it has been a privilege to play for Leary and the rest of the coaching staff for four years.
Keeping up with preparation during the summer and fall, Leary and his team are hoping to get back on the field and contend for a Patriot League Championship in 2021.
“I do feel blessed to be in this position,” Leary said. “It’s a wonderful place to work, and I get to work with wonderful kids every day.”