Minerva-Newcomb varsity baseball coach Ed LaCourse, right, hands Johnsburg varsity baseball coach Tim Leach a gift during their last game against each other at Johnsburg. The Mountaineers won 9-0.
Friends and family honored retiring Johnsburg Central School coach Tim Leach Monday, May 21 during a home baseball game against the Minerva-Newcomb Mountaineers.
Tim’s wife, Mary, a music teacher at Johnsburg Central, organized a get-together after the baseball game, inviting Tim’s friends and former players to eat cake and share memories of his coaching days.
“The students have been his life,” Mary Leach said. “This is really far more important than any retirement dinner or anything that we could do for him to recognize his years. It’s the faces of all those kids through all those years. That was his life. Hopefully we’ll see a few of those faces today.”
An Old Forge native, Tim Leach began his 35-year teaching career in Indian Lake and ended it at Johnsburg. He still lives in the town of Indian Lake, where his first baseball team captain from 1976 — town Supervisor Brian Wells — had a baseball card made up in the coach’s honor.
The card features a picture of Tim Leach with his catcher’s mitt during college, in his University of Wyoming Cowboys uniform.
“Tim always told his boys that photograph he kept in his office was going to be the baseball card when he made the big leagues,” Mary Leach said. “So I went to his 89-year-old mom, who had to go digging through the basement, and found the photograph.”
On the back are career statistics for 35 years, some real and some imaginary:
•three section baseball titles
•358 baseball wins
•six league soccer teams
•250 soccer wins
•two individual ski titles
•six league ski teams in second place
“Tim logged over 20,000 miles on a school bus, engaged in 567 arguments with umpires in which he won 1 and didn’t miss a single meal during all of his games.”
For three decades, Leach has been the coach of the baseball, soccer and nordic ski teams at Johnsburg. He also spent some years coaching both alpine and nordic skiing in the winter.
Johnsburg Central Superintendent Mike Markwica was there to honor Coach Leach and said his allegiance remains with the Jaguars when the baseball team squares off against the Westport Eagles and their head coach Don Markwica, Mike’s brother.
“I know my brother, who is an amazing fan of baseball, definitely found his match with Tim,” Mike Markwica said. “He loves playing against Tim. He will refer to it as like a chess game.”
Minerva-Newcomb varsity baseball head coach Ed LaCourse gave a brief speech to the crowd before handing Coach Leach a wicker wreath decorated with baseballs that were signed by members of his team.
“Thirty-four years ago, I was on that mound pitching in the section finals against none other than Tim Leach’s Indian Lake baseball team which Newcomb won five to nothing,” LaCourse said. “That was a great part of my life, and I am proud to say that Tim Leach is a great part of my life and is someone I consider a great friend and someone I’ve learned to admire. Second only to myself, his baseball knowledge is just incredible.”
When setting up the schedule for the baseball season, Leach emailed LaCourse to ask him if he’d like to have the Mountaineers play the Jaguars for the last game of his career.
“I tell you what, that just about brought tears to my eyes,” LaCourse said. “And it is an honor to play before you in what we call Tim’s last game here at Johnsburg Central School.”
The Mountaineers won 9-0 in five innings.
The May 21 game was designed to be the last home game of Coach Leach’s career; however, the May 16 game against Wells was rained out and was expected to be played on May 23.
Standing in front of a crowd sitting on the grassy hill behind the backstop, Coach Leach introduced the five seniors on the varsity baseball team.
“What will be missed most from these players, especially Taylor and his family, is the fan support that they bring to our team,” Leach said.
•John Gahan (outfield): “John has made great strides this year,” Leach said. “He was a very valuable member of the basketball team ... The only bad thing about him is he’s a New York Yankees fan. Other than that, it was great having John on the team.”
•Liam Harrison (pitcher/first base): “This year, as of right now, we only have two victories, and Liam has been the winning pitcher in both those games for us,” Leach said. “Liam has been a valuable member of our team for three years.”
•Chris Scott (outfield): “Chris is also a three-year varsity player ... He’s been mostly our right-fielder, but this season he’s played center field, and all the fans I’m sure would agree with me that he’s been a real valuable asset out there,” Leach said. “Most fly balls that are catchable, he catches for us.”
•Taylor Ordway (first base, pitcher, shortstop): “Taylor’s been a three-year starter,” Leach said. “He’s played every position on the field except for catcher, and he even catches for us in pre-season pitchers- and catchers-only practices. He’s played everywhere.”
•Dustin Weller (catcher): “Dustin has caught 98 percent of the innings we’ve had since he’s been a sophomore in high school,” Leach said. “He’s had a great season this year offensively and has tried his hand at pitching a little bit for us ... He has cut down most teams’ running games ... he has a high baseball IQ and has been a very valuable member of our team.”
Ed LaCourse, Newcomb Central School baseball coach
Oddly enough, one of my great memories of Tim was when I was a player for Newcomb in 1978. We had just won the Section semi-finals and Tim, who was a spectator, walked over to me and shook my hand and said, “Good game.”
Second to me, LOL, Tim is quite possibly the most knowledgeable coach concerning baseball I have met. His only fault is his fruitless love for the hapless Cardinals.
I consider Tim a great friend and worthy opponent. I have one situation etched in my mind. The section VII finals in 2003, we were ahead 4-2 with two outs in the last inning, and Johnsburg scored three runs to win. Tim was jumping up and down. From that point on, I stomp him every chance I get.
I have a tremendous respect for Tim. I wish him the absolute best, and he has no excuse for not playing golf with me. May God bless him in his retirement!
John Clark, Indian Lake Central School history teacher
I grew up with Tim in Old Forge. Our families are close — his dad was the principal and my dad taught under him. I played on the first team Tim coached, a Little League team he managed as he worked his way through college.
Our traveling team was good, and Tim was worried we'd get cocky. So after every win, he'd have us stand on the third base line, clap together, then run sprint after sprint until we were exhausted. This has never been done in the 150 years of baseball. The other team would stick around just to laugh at us. Tim thought the running would humble us and build character, but I'm living proof it did neither.
Brian Wells, Indian Lake supervisor, former ball player
The first time I met Tim Leach, he left a lasting impression not only on me but an entire baseball team.The summer before my junior year of high school, we had a summer baseball program, and we traveled to Old Forge to play this powerhouse on their turf.
Indian Lake played the best game we had all summer. We were tied going into the bottom of the last inning. A runner was on second base with two outs. There was a wild pitch, and the runner took off for third. Our catcher fired the ball to third base, and I slapped the tag on him for what I thought was the third out, and we would have extra innings. But the home plate umpire, who was the only umpire on the field, had his view blocked, and he was looking at the third base coach for help on the call.
To this day I can still see the third base coach, Mr. Tim Leach, emphatically spreading his arms like he was going to take flight and yelling, “Safe!”
I could not belive it! The runner was out by a mile. The next pitch was hit cleanly, scoring the man from third, and we lost. We grumbled about that loss all summer, but school was fast approaching. Our longtime coach, George Burgess, had retired, and we would be getting a new coach.
Imagine our surprise when we went to school for our first soccer meeting and into the room walked that cheating third base coach from Old Forge. We found out he was replacing Coach Burgess.
To make along story short, Coach Leach not only became my coach, he became a lifelong friend. He taught me to look beyond and to step out and try new things.
I wish him the best in his retirement, and I still say the runner was out!