The Los Angeles Dodgers have recruited Israeli ballplayer Alon Leichman to coach for its organization, the Israel Association of Baseball this month.
Leichman, 27, could be found last month inside the bullpen at MCU Park in Brooklyn, New York, coaching pitchers including former MLB pitchers Jason Marquis and Craig Breslow. IAB officials say his presence among such professional hurlers is a testament to his hard work and determination.
Leichman’s journey to major league coaching began when he first picked up a glove as a 4-year-old kibbutznik on Kibbutz Gezer.
“Growing up in Gezer I really didn’t have much choice but to get sucked into baseball since everyone that lives there played,” recalls Alon.
His father David, an immigrant from the United States, was one of the founders of Gezer baseball, one of the bedrocks of Israeli baseball in its early days, so it was natural that Alon should get involved.
“My big brother played and was pretty good, so naturally wanted to be as good as he was,” he says.
“I had great experiences when I was a little kid going overseas to play on national teams with my best friends, as well as when I was older playing alongside my two biggest mentors in the game — Shlomo Lipetz, who coached me when I was 10, and Dan Rothem, who worked with me, during my army years.”
He caught the U.S. baseball bug early
Leichman says he got the bug to play baseball in the United States very early on. “I remember going to baseball camp as a 6-year-old and knew back then that is what I wanted when I grew up,” he says.
Being selected to play in the MLB Academy in Italy in 2008 made him realize that playing in the United States was a real possibility. With help of coach Pat Doyle, Alon was recommended to the coach of California’s Cypress College team.
In 2009, the year before he was discharged from the Israel Defense Forces, Alon spent a week working out with the team. By the end of that week, he was invited back. Two weeks after his military discharge, he flew to California to pursue his dream.
Leichman says college was a positive experience for him until he hurt his arm and required elbow surgery, but injury did not deter him.
“I continued to work hard to get back to where I was physically before surgery,” he says.
“I was able to come back and have a great collegiate experience from winning a state championship at Cypress College to playing summer ball at a high level and being fortunate to transfer to UC San Diego.”
Alon had been a closer for Cypress College and a weekend starter for UC San Diego. “They were each different but great roles,” he notes. “My arm never recovered and I had to undergo a second elbow surgery, but I was able to really find what it takes to make best out of my ability with whatever on any given day.”
After Alon graduated, he took a job as the pitching coach for the YD Red Sox in the Cape Cod League. This step led to the Dodgers approaching him to coach in the instructional league, which focuses on player development.
In this role he works alongside the coaching staff and helps out with the development of young Dodgers pitching prospects. He hopes this stint will lead to a full-time position for the upcoming season.
Despite being based overseas, Leichman maintains his connection to Israel, coaching whenever he’s home on a visit and playing on the men’s senior national team.
He has also been part of the World Baseball Classic teams, both this year and four years ago in the qualifiers in Florida.
“Both times were very special to me,” he says. “Four years ago I was fortunate to play on Team Israel as one of the Israel-born team members along with Shlomo and Dan. I made new friendships that are strong to this day. This time around as a coach it was a bit different for me but very fulfilling since we won and accomplished the goal we all set. This group of guys was truly special.”
He has a message for players coming up and hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“Dan Rothem introduced me to a way of thinking which is ‘Process over Product,’” he says. “This means that you have to commit to taking care of business on and off the field, be a student of the game, coach young players — and things will take care of themselves.”
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