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June 08, 1979 - Image 12

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-06-08

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Page 12-Friday, June 8, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Leach inks basebal

AP Photo
FORMER MICHIGAN quarterback and centerfielder Rick Leach dons his new
threads for the first time-the uniform of a Detroit Tiger. Leach announced his
choice of a baseball career at a press conference at Tiger Stadium yesterday.

By AP andUPi
DETROIT - Rick Leach ignored the
lure of big-money professional football
and instead chose yesterday to play
baseball with the Detroit Tigers.
"I wasn't exactly sure going into the
season what would happen," Leach
said at a news conference at Tiger
Stadium, just minutes after signing.
THE WOLVERINES' football quar-
terback and baseball outfielder had
been sought after in both sports. He was
drafted originally by the Philadelphia
Phillies in 1975 and 1978, but chose to
play football instead.
The Denver Broncos chose the Flint
native in the fifth round of the National
Football League player draft last mon-
th. Leach also had been offered a con-
tract with Montreal in the Canadian
Football League.
"I've been following the Tigers since
I was a young boy. Playing in my home
state where my family and friends
could see me was a big concern," Leach
said, in explaining why he chose the
"I figured my opportunity was as
good or better here than in the Denver
organization. And, the terms were very
fair," he added.
"FOR A GUY that can't hit for power
and can't throw too well, I didn't do too
badly," Leach cracked at the news con-
ference announcing his signing for a
bonus estimated at $100,000 with the
standard incentive clauses that give
him more money as he progresses to
the majors.
Leach signed a standard one-year
contract but it was a minor league pact,

I pact
not like the major league contract for-
mer Michigan State star Kirk Gibson
signed last year, because of the
decision in the arbitration between Bob
Horner and the Atlanta Braves earlier
this week.
"If it was just strictly money, he
probably wouldn't be here," said the
lefthander's father, Richard Max
Leach Sr. "It's the opportunity along
with the money."
"I always hoped to be drafted by the
Tigers," said Leach, who, like Gibson,
is an outfield hopeful. "But I never was
sure until the draft how interested they
were in me."
THEY WERE plenty interested.
Detroit Vice President-Baseball Bill
Lajoie said he has had his eye on Leach
"for seven years," ever since the Flint
Southwestern prep star first came to
the public's attention.
However, Leach chose to pursue
football and baseball at Michigan and
excelled in both for four seasons.
In addition to highly publicized foot-
ball exploits, Leach hit .349 with five
home runs all during his senior season
and 88 RBI in his 149-game collegiate
career. He set Wolverine records for
games, hits, doubles, runs and RBI.
"I knew when I entered Michigan
that it was going to come down to a big
decision at the end of my senior year,
but being a guy from the state of
Michigan who always followed the
Detroit Tigers, it was an easy decision
to make," he said. "I'm happy to be a
part of the organization.
"I'M GOING into baseball," Leach
continued. "I'm through with football.
I'm not going to look behind me
"After looking at all those 280-pound
and 270-pound linemen - I decided I'd
been taking enough knocks in my
career and it was time to get out."
Leach will leave for Lakeland, Fla.
Monday to begin a 10-day training
camp with other draftees, Lajoie ad-
ded. After camp, he said, the 22-year-
old would be assigned to one of the
teams within the club's farm system,
probably playing in center field.
Bird to
sign with
BOSTON (AP) - The Boston Celtics
called a news conference for 10 a.m.
today to announce the signing of college
star Larry Bird to a five-year NBA con-
tract worth more than $3.2 million.
Neither the Celtics nor Bird's
lawyers, Bob Woolf of Boston, were
willing to state publicly that the Indiana
State star will soon be on the team's
roster. But a Celtics official conceded
Bird will be at the news conference and
Woolf said, "I'm delighted. It would
appear Larry will be a Celtic."
Sources close to the negotiations con-
firmed that Bird's pact is worth about
$650,000 per year, including fringe
benefits. He thus will become the
highest paid rookie in pro sports

Benedict: He'll make it

Retiring Michigan coach Moby Benedict has led the
roller-coaster life of collegiate coaching about as completely
as any baseball man around.
Throughout Michigan's many successes along with the
few downs Benedict's suffered through in his coaching
tenure, he's learned to take the bad with the good, evincing a
usually calm attitude. After a tough loss, one which Michigan
might have won, save for a fluke play or two, Benedict has a
stock answer.
"That's just baseball," he would say.
But the departing Michigan mentor fairly bubbles with
enthusiasm when speaking of his outfield mainstay for the
past four years-Rick Leach, soon to be one of the new faces
in the Detroit Tigers' minor league stable.
"If there's one thing I can talk on an on about, it's Rick
Leach," Benedict said yesterday. "He's an outstanding
young athlete, with fine physical tools, and a great desire to
And according to Benedict, it's Leach's competitive in-
stinct which will give him a good chance to succeed in the
majors. In fact, Benedict says, if he were a gambling man,
he'd be willing to wager that the sure-handed Leach will
eventually make the big league grade. Leach's desire and
confidence in himself will see to that.
"Not all of us have that quality," explained Benedict.
"I've coached a lot of great athletes, yet not all of them have
had the desire and ability to win that Rick has.
"He's like Bill Freehan in that respect. Freehan had great
physical tools, and he was a mean competitor."
Pretty high praise from your coach, to be rated on a par,
with Freehan, who was a perennial allstar behind the plate
during his prime with the Tigers.
Yet Benedict is undying in his praise of Leach, and given
the players who've gone through the Benedict system, you
have to believe Benedict when he speaks of Leach, saying,
"He goes after the ball and catches it better than any out-
fielder I've ever coached, and that includes Elliot Maddox
and Leon Roberts (both successful in the pro ranks)."
But aside from the ability Leach possesses to play the
game, what Benedict appreciates most about the mulitsport
star was his ability to inspire his teammates with those two
intangibles: confidence and determination.

He tells a story which to him is illustrative of these
qualities. Two years ago, the Wolverines had lost the first
game of a home and home series with Michigan State, for-
cing a must-win situation in the Sunday game at Fisher
The mood in the Blue clubhouse was tense, a far cry from
the horseplay and blaring stereo that normally set the locker
room mood.
Leach walked in and said to his coach he'd seen a great
magician perform that night before. "He made an elephant
disapapear skipper," Leach said. "Now if he can do that, you
know we can beat those Aggies (Leach's pet nickname for
MSU, which was formerly an agricultural school) today."
"That helped loosen us up," recalled Benedict, whose
team then went out and earned a regional NCAA berth by
etn^n thoCn ^~ n

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