Mike McLeod: An Ohio Valley Legend, Molder Of Men

WHEELING — He is considered by many as the best athlete ever produced at Wheeling Park High School. I am of that opinion.

He has also served as head baseball coach at his alma mater.

Mike McLeod — above all else — is a man who strives to change lives in a positive fashion.

The former Patriots three-sport star yielded those head-coaching duties after last Saturday’s state Class AAA championship game against Hurricane. It dropped the curtain on a successful six-year run in that capacity.

That resignation was spawned by greater purposes — his family as well as mentoring youths in need.

McLeod and his wife, Raquel, recently adopted two young children. They also have a daughter at Wheeling Park while his oldest daughter is playing college softball.

“It is time for me to invest more time in my family. Our young ones are now into travel basketball and soccer. I like going to their games and just sitting down and watching. I know nothing about soccer but it is fun to just sit and watch,” McLeod said. “I don’t want to miss my daughter’s college softball games again. It bothered me this past year not being there.

“But I am also into mentoring other kids … kids who need father figures,” the 1992 Park grad added. “They need help with their grades and where they need to be. I want to help children in need.”

Playing for a state title this year is obviously a highlight for McLeod. However, he dwells and reflects more on his players than the wins and losses.

“The things I remember are the relationships you make with your players while they are growing up. It is things like Michael Grove meeting with Theo Epstein (Cubs president) in Chicago one day and being in Charleston the next day to cheer us on in the state tournament,” McLeod said. “It’s about our former players coming back and throwing batting practice for us or taking infield with us or just to shoot the bull.

“A lot of people just see me when I go out to coach third base. They don’t see all the groundwork that goes into cultivating relationships with my players. People don’t see that. I stress to my players to always do the right thing. Do the right thing for themselves and the kids who will follow them. I love dealing with kids — that is why I coach.”

McLeod, who also teaches at his alma mater, was a star quarterback and linebacker, guiding Park to the Class AAA state championship game in 1991, falling to Capital, 15-14, in overtime. He was first team all-state, All-OVAC and All-Valley.

In hoops, McLeod was a three-year regular at point guard, helping lead Sam Andy’s Patriots to the state tournament twice. He finished his career with 1,230 points and averaged 21.7 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior. McLeod was a firstteam all-state selection as a senior.

Baseball, however, is McLeod’s athletic passion. He earned first team all-state honors after batting .490 as a senior, which was the second-best in the Ohio Valley, regardless of class. He had 42 hits, seven doubles, a triple and three home runs. He drove in 20 and scored 28 runs.

McLeod pursued professional baseball right out of high school, being drafted by the Oakland Athletics. After two years in the A’s organization, he enrolled at Youngstown State and joined the football team. He was a member of the Penguins’ Division I-AA national championship squad in 1994, playing for Jim Tressel.

McLeod, while no longer the head coach, doesn’t plan to disappear from Park baseball or the people involved. He also realizes leaving the game will yield some tough emotion.

“I will still be their friends. Anything they need I will help them,” McLeod said. “I will go to games and to practices. I will always be around for them.

“It really hasn’t sunken in yet. It will probably hurt to the core. I know I will miss the kids, coaches and all the stories. We had a good run. It’s not about the wins and losses. It is about people. Opening a new book is fun, closing a book is tough.”

McLeod, 44, is a member of the Wheeling Park and OVAC Halls of Fame.

BUBBA’S BITS

Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit has been named the Sports Facility of the Year at the recent Sports Business Awards ceremony in New York City. Little Caesars Arena is home to the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons. The Red Wings staff features two Ohio Valley natives — John Ciszewski and John Kapral. Ciszewski, a Shadyside and Bethany College grad, is the Senior Vice President of Sales for the Red Wings. Kapral, meanwhile, is a St. John Central and Bethany College grad. He is a Sr. Account Executive/Inventory Specialist.

∫ I am a fan of Oliver Luck. I believe the former WVU and NFL quarterback is a very smart man as well as a classy one. He has been working for the NCAA after a successful stint as WVU’s athletics director. He has now signed on to be commissioner and CEO of the fledgling XFL. Luck brings credibility and legitimacy to a league that needs both.

∫ The Mountain East Conference is leaking oil. The NCAA Division II loop is losing two of its members in Shepherd University and UVa-Wise. Both schools will exit the MEC after the 2018-19 season and join the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference for the 2019-20 school year. Shepherd is the MEC flag-bearer when it comes to football.

∫ Kudos go out to Bellaire native and recent Baldwin Wallace University graduate Spencer Badia for being selected as the Google Cloud Academic All-America of the Year, headlining the Academic All-America Division III Baseball Team. Badia, who also enjoyed a banner career as Bellaire quarterback, is the template for the ideal student-athlete.

∫ If LeBron James is more concerned with titles than individual stats then it is time to leave Cleveland. The Cavs will never be able to match the Golden State firepower. Houston would be the ideal landing spot for King James.

∫ Golf’s second major unfolds Thursday at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in New York. My pick to win the U.S. Open is Justin Thomas.

Bubba Kapral can be reached via email at: bkapral@timesleaderonline.com

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