Leyland's son leads Bishop Canevin

| Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If a firm handshake, intense look and mature way of answering questions didn't give it away, the Tigers sweatpants he wore to baseball practice made it clear that Bishop Canevin's starting catcher is the son of Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

Just a sophomore, Patrick Leyland appears to have inherited his love of baseball from his dad, who was a minor-league catcher in the Detroit Tigers organization. Jim also was the Pirates' manager from 1986-96 and led the Florida Marlins to a World Series title in '97.

Patrick, who's batting .382 with four home runs and 20 RBI, has helped the Crusaders (13-7) get to the WPIAL Class AA championship game. The final is 5 p.m. today against Beaver (17-4) at CONSOL Energy Park in Washington.

Patrick, who tries to watch every Tigers game on television, says he welcomes advice from his dad.

"He helps with technical stuff -- with swings and throws," said Patrick, who speaks to his dad several times a day. "But mostly, it's about the mind-set to stay focused."

Crusaders coach Dale Checketts says he enjoys hearing from the Tigers manager.

"He's very hands off, lets us do what we do and supports our program," Checketts said. "He wants to see us do well and always offers words of encouragement when we need them."

The distance between Pittsburgh and Detroit hasn't hurt the relationship between Patrick and his father.

Katie Leyland, Jim's wife and Patrick's mother, is proud of how the two have remained close through the years. The couple also has a 14-year-old daughter, Kellie, who's a competitive cheerleader.

"My father always said they have the most unique relationship he'd ever seen between a father and a son, and I think that's true," Katie said. "They are running buddies through baseball. They have spent years traveling to tournaments, living it up and having a ball. They're almost contemporaries, as far as the baseball thing goes.

"It's interesting. You would think Pat wouldn't have a great relationship with his dad because his dad is not physically present most of the time for him, but (Jim) is on his phone with him countless times in a day.

"Jim is aware of every at-bat that Pat has ever taken, so it doesn't get too far. If something happens, Jim knows about it."

The past two seasons haven't been easy for Patrick and Bishop Canevin, but he has bounced back from an injury-plagued freshman year to help the Crusaders rally from a 2-6 start to this season.

"He's our defensive leader," said Checketts of Patrick, who's thrown out 11-of-12 runners on steal attempts. "Your catcher holds everything together, and he's very smart."

But perhaps what most impresses the coach is Patrick's tough, blue-collar approach to the game, something he knows is a product of his famous father's tutelage.

"You have to get that work ethic from somebody, and he came in with it," Checketts said. "It wasn't something that just happened over the past year. He's a complete player. He puts in the time and effort it takes to be a starter and to be successful at this level."

Carrying the last name Leyland also brings its share of expectations -- even some taunting from fans -- but that's something the catcher has learned to handle.

"Nobody sets higher expectations than himself," Checketts said of Patrick. "He's got expectations that exceed most players we have."

Those expectations include a WPIAL championship, which Patrick would rather see than even his dad winning another World Series title.

"I'm sure he would understand," Patrick said. "He would rather win a World Series than us winning a WPIAL title, so it goes both ways."

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