With family and local ties, Mark Leiter Jr. is one of the best stories out of this year’s Phillies draft class. The son of former Phils hurler Mark Leiter Sr., nephew of former big leaguer Al Leiter as well as Kurt Leiter who was also a pro pitcher and a product of Toms River North High School and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Leiter Jr. has been enjoying success since he was selected in the 22nd round this year.
In 13 outings to start his professional career, the 22-year-old had gone 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA before earning a promotion from the Gulf Coast League Phillies to Class A Lakewood recently. Leiter, who stands six feet tall and weighs around 195 pounds, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 while walking only two in two starts (11 innings) since joining the BlueClaws.
Last week I spoke with the right-hander, who grew up as a Phillies fan, about his draft experience, coming from a baseball pedigree and his family’s hobby of collecting baseball cards. Read ahead for that full interview.
– Can you take me through the draft process this year? How were you tracking it? And were the Phillies on your radar or were they a surprise to take you?
Well, the Phillies were the team I hoped would draft me. They had seen me a few times over the last couple years in college and, so they were keeping tabs on me and how I was doing. I think a decent amount of different scouts saw me, from the Phillies. So, we were hoping it was the Phillies.
On the day of the draft, I didn’t know what was going to happen. You never know. We watched the first day, I watched the second day with my family and on the third day, my dad took me and my grandfather and my cousin golfing, so we didn’t watch at all. So, we were playing golf and I got the phone call and it was nice. It was a good experience, I was just with my dad and my grandfather and my cousin, playing golf. It was definitely cool.
– I want to get your thoughts on playing in a family with a baseball pedigree. I’m sure you get this question all the time, but what advantages did your background provide for you and what is it like coming from this family into baseball as a pro.
Well, having the background of my family, with the experience that they have has really been a big help for me, as far as my personal performance and mentally being sharp and stuff like that. I talk to my uncles on the phone, I talk to my uncle Kurt a lot, and me and my dad have countless conversations. Every time we’re together, just whether it’s just a small conversation or if we have a full conversation about baseball, you know the tutelage that they’re able to give me, the outside observations of what I’m going through that they’ve already gone through, it’s very helpful. Then, of course, my dad- working out with him in the winter, you know, throwing with him, being able to call him after a bad game, he does lessons, in the winter he does them here, at the BlueClaws’ batting cages. I always go with him, help him out, work with the kids. So, that’s helping me, because mechanically, different stuff, keeping myself sharp. But, being able to just have that to lean on, when you’re struggling, or whatever it is, to have the person to go to, that’s been there and knows what you need to hear, is very helpful.
I’m very lucky and very fortunate. The mentoring they’ve all been able to do for me has been great. I’ve been privileged to have it.
– You talked about being here in a different capacity, coaching, mentoring…have you ever been here at FirstEnergy Park as a fan and what are the differences for you being in attendance as a fan versus being here as a mentor against now representing this team and the Phillies?
Well, I came to a few games when I was younger, but the past couple years I haven’t been able to. I haven’t been home, summer baseball and stuff like that with college. But, being here in the winter, being able to see it and knowing it was a possibility (to play here), it was kind of like that’s the goal…being able to play in Lakewood next summer. It was very cool and it has hit me, but it hasn’t. The first time I’m able to see my family really, other than my dad flying down to Florida, but just being able to go home and see everyone, it’s nice. And being able to wake up in my own bed and drive to the field it’s unbelievable.
– You mentioned being able to have your family come out. What does it mean to you to get a couple starts here at home as the season winds down?
It’s awesome. (My first start with Lakewood) was obviously on the road, but it was close enough that my mom, I was able to have my mom come and it was the first time I got to see my mom and my dad. My sisters came down. My one sister just went away to school, but having them really able to see me for the first time was nice. And then once I got sent here I have a lot of friends and family congratulating me, asking me when I’m pitching. So, the fact that I’m pitching at home and they’re able to come out is nice and is very cool.
– How has the process been for you adjusting to the pro’s from college ball thus far?
Everything that’s come so far has been everything I hoped for and more. Just the ways it’s run, the way you go about your daily routine, all that kind of stuff has been awesome. It’s been everything I’ve dreamed of and what I’ve wanted to do through college and high school.
– When you’ve got a big leaguer like Roy Halladay rehabbing with the team it’s common for the younger players to have all eyes on him. Talk a bit about having Roy around and what type of impact he could have on the players.
I’ll be charting the game, so that’ll be cool. I mean, he’s a great pitcher, he’s a two-time Cy Young Award winner. I’ve been to game at Citizens Bank Park when he’s been pitching and just seeing him in the locker room, it’s pretty cool. And to be charting his pitches, it’s just gonna be awesome.
– What’s your pitch repertoire right now and what do you consider your out pitch?
Fastball, change up, curve ball. I’m working on a cutter. Change up’s the go-to pitch.
– Before I let you go, and thanks for your time, I wanted to ask as a kid did you collect baseball cards and do you remember your favorite card or who your favorite guy to collect was?
– Not the family? (laughter)
Well, I mean we get those cards, but after my dad retired, The Backstop, we’d go over there all the time, the last Friday of every month and we would collect cards and open boxes, all that kind of stuff. I was always excited if I got a Griffey.
– Inserts are always a big deal with collecting cards. Do you remember ever getting a special insert that you got excited about?
Well, my dad opened up a Topps Sterling, when those first came out, he got a Mickey Mantle autograph. So, that was pretty cool. We were video taping at that time and he pulled that card.
– That’s a hot pull.
Yeah, that was a real impressive one. We pulled a lot of cool ones, but that was the most memorable.