The Nine: Nine Questions with former Grizzlies' star Jalal Leach
In celebration of Black History Month, teams across Minor League Baseball took a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers
In celebration of Black History Month, teams across Minor League Baseball took a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.”
On that list of players for the Fresno Grizzlies included Jalal Leach, who answered nine wide-ranging questions about Black History Month for Minor League Baseball’s “The Nine” initiative. Take a look at his bio and then his answers to the following questions with our Media Relations Coordinator Stephen Rice:
Jalal Leach was selected by the New York Yankees in the 7th round of the 1990 draft out of Pepperdine University. After playing for eight years and a trio of teams, Leach still hadn’t cracked the big leagues. At that point, he was offered a coaching position by Brian Sabean, despite still wanting to play. After some roster moves, Leach was activated as a player and would head to Fresno for the next four years, which included joining the 1998 Grizzlies club. Over those four seasons, Leach became one of the most lethal bats in the Pacific Coast League and Grizzlies history. He finished his Fresno career with four Top-10 franchise records, which included homers (8th, 52), triples (6th, 15), doubles (7th, 73) and RBI (7th, 216). The culmination of his determination and prowess at the plate earned him his long-awaited call-up to the Giants in 2001. Leach is the definition of Farm Grown in Fresno.
Stephen Rice: I want you to talk a little bit about your upbringing/background, including your role models in your life.
Jalal Leach: I grew up in Novato California which is 30 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge/San Francisco. My idols are my parents. I played all youth sports, which included Baseball, Basketball and Football.
Stephen Rice: What was discussed at an early age in terms of possible obstacles you could face as a black man in society? Let alone, a black athlete.
Jalal Leach: Novato was fine growing up as we were mostly looked at as an athlete. We did have a few racial discrimination issues off the field but my parents had fully prepared/educated us as Novato was a predominantly white community.
Stephen Rice: What are your hopes or concerns for your family, community, including baseball community and/or the country about these “barriers”?
Jalal Leach: I hope things across the board will improve but I'm unsure if it will happen in my lifetime.
Stephen Rice: Where does racial disparity exist in sport?
Jalal Leach: I feel like racial disparity exists in our coaching, teams’ front offices/upper management.
Stephen Rice: Is there such a thing as “White” and “Black” sports in America?
Jalal Leach: Not sure about this. But I do think on the sports battlefield race isn't truly an issue.
Stephen Rice: What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life? Does this involve race?
Jalal Leach: I can only control myself and my actions on a daily basis.
Stephen Rice: How can someone who maybe didn’t grow up around a Black community learn how to educate themselves on the culture, or how to respect others?
Jalal Leach: I didn't grow up in a black community but I'm fully aware that I am black.
Stephen Rice: Do you have a favorite memory or place you played at that showed perspective even for you?
Jalal Leach: I played a lot of places and I always learned to adapt to my environment.
Stephen Rice: Do you have any final thoughts?
Jalal Leach: In closing, although I knew of perceived barriers being a minority player, I didn't let that deter me from my goal of playing professional baseball.