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Connellsville grad thrilled to join Diamondbacks

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Johnny Leonard was selected in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Leonard, a 2011 Connellsville High School graduate, was the 274th player taken. He was drafted as a shortstop.

Leonard, a Dawson resident, talked to a number of scouts, and many projected him to be picked near the 10th round. But even though he expected to be drafted, it was still a shock when his name was announced.

"It feels amazing," Leonard said. "When I heard my name called, I felt like I got punched in the stomach or something. It was so exciting."

Leonard, who received a scholarship to play baseball at North Carolina State, will bypass college and plans to begin his career in professional baseball as soon as possible.

"I plan on signing pretty quickly because I want to start playing," Leonard said. "Mostly, I've just been working out because I didn't want to commit to a team this summer."

Leonard is the third member of his family to be drafted. In 1982, his father, John was chosen first overall in the winter draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He spent several years playing in the minors. Last year, Johnny's brother Joe was selected in the third round by the Atlanta Braves. Joe Leonard was a standout at Pitt and is batting .250 with two homers and 18 RBI for the Single-A Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League.

For Johnny Leonard, having an older brother and a father who have professional baseball experience will help as he begins his career.

"My dad just told me to always work hard because they'll always be somebody behind you fighting to take your spot," he said.

For the second year in a row, John Leonard was able to experience the joy of having a son drafted by a major league team.

"It's very exciting for us," he said. "The whole family is very excited, and Johnny really wants to play."

Johnny Leonard expects to start playing for one of Arizona's rookie teams, such as Missoula in the Pioneer League or the AZL Diamondbacks in the Arizona League.

But no matter where he begins, he's thrilled to have the chance to play professional baseball.

"It was something I thought about forever, and being picked in the top 10, I have a chance to realize my dream and make it come true," Johnny Leonard said.

During his senior season at Connellsville, Johnny Leonard put up some impressive numbers and earned All-WPIAL honors. In 14 games with the Falcons, he hit .556 with three home runs and 20 RBI. He also stole nine bases and scored 22 runs.

"I think this is great for him," Connellsville baseball coach Joe Bonadio said. "He's worked hard and he deserves it, and I'm sure he'll make the most of his opportunity."

In addition to baseball, Leonard was also a standout basketball player and golfer for Connellsville. Prior to graduation, he was recognized as this year's Tim Bollibon Award winner, given to a Connellsville graduate who letters in three varsity sports and maintains at least a 3.0 GPA.

The Tim Bollibon Award is named in honor of the 1986 Connellsville High School graduate who was killed in 1991 while serving as a U.S. Navy SEAL during Operation Desert Storm.



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