Springfield Cardinals right-hander Kyle Leahy has bounced back strong from an 0-8 record in 2021, to lead the 2022 Cardinals in victories, strikeouts and innings pitched. (Photo by P.J. Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

OPINION |

Kyle Leahy doesn’t try to sugarcoat his 2021 season. Not that he could if he wanted to.

The Springfield Cardinals’ pitcher finished 0-8 with a bursting-at-the-seams 8.20 earned run average in 25 appearances, including 10 starts. 

How did he persevere through it, emotionally?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Leahy said earlier this week before a game against the Frisco Roughriders at Hammons Field. “It was tough to get through. You just try to regroup in the offseason and try to clear your mind.

“I had a lot of people in the organization have my back and try to help me get through it. I’m grateful to all of them.”

One of those people was Springfield pitching coach Darwin Marrero. Leahy recalled a little cheerleading and a lot of “tough love” from Marrero.

When you’re a professional and it’s a results-oriented business — more so at each rung of the organization one climbs — Marrero said he tried to keep Leahy on task with a bigger picture in mind.

Marrero explained that Leahy, a 6-foot-4, 207-pound right-hander, always has been a hard worker — doubly so when facing adversity. But that tough love, mixed in with encouragement, is part of a coach’s job in pro ball.

“That is part of our duties. It is part of our responsibilities,” Marrero said.

Kyle Leahy admitted the 2021 was a season to forget, crediting Cardinals pitching coach Darwin Marrero’s dose of “tough love” with helping him get through it. (Photo by P.J. Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

“This is a tough league,” Marrero continued. “Last year, it was a learning process in all aspects for him. I am very happy with the way he has been reorganizing himself, mentally and physically.”

Leahy, 25, has seen his determination pay off in 2022. He shares the lead on the Cardinals’ pitching staff with seven victories, including three in the month of July. He has a team-best 102 strikeouts and has been the workhorse of the staff with 97⅔  innings.

Thursday night he kept the Cardinals in the game with 5⅔ innings, shutting down the Roughriders after surrendering three early runs. Springfield rallied behind five home runs to take a 9-4 victory, keeping them atop the Texas League North second-half standings.

It was the latest solid outing by Leahy, who has held opponents to three or fewer runs in six of his last seven starts.

Leahy, a 17th-round draft selection by the Cardinals in 2018 out of Colorado Mesa University, threw one of his better games of the season last weekend at Northwest Arkansas. He went six innings, allowing three runs, two walks and struck out nine.

‘Compound the interest each day’

“It’s just a compound of work I’ve been doing since I got here,” Leahy said of better results. “It’s a long season. You just have to compound the interest each day and get a little better and hopefully, by the end of the year, good things happen.”

With a four-pitch arsenal (fastball, curve, change-up and slider) Leahy said mixing all four and “executing them in the areas of the zone that I know are effective” is the key on game night.

“He has four good pitches and when he goes out there and does his thing, he’s one of the best,” catcher Nick Raposo said. 

Life as a pitcher in the Texas League, where the summer winds almost always favor the hitters, is not easy. It’s why Leahy, as he does after each start, will clear his mind and look ahead rather than dwelling too much on the past.

The mental part of the game is why so many pitchers play golf on team off days. In the minor leagues, with the usual Monday day off, several of Leahy’s teammates find an area course to tee it up.

“The off days are a good day to refresh,” Leahy said, noting that the non-golfers find another outlet to reboot their brains.

“We all try to get together and grill,” he said, noting that if the players aren’t grilling steaks or other meat treats, they order smoked proteins from local restaurants.  

“Either one is a good time,” Leahy said. “Doing something to refresh the mind each week is something that has been really helpful.”

For Leahy, the 2022 season certainly has been easier to digest than last summer.

Cardinals homestand continues

The Springfield Cardinals’ six-game homestand at Hammons Field against the Frisco Roughriders, Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, continues through Sunday. A look at the results and upcoming games:

  • Tuesday: Frisco 10, Springfield 6
  • Wednesday: Frisco 5, Springfield 2
  • Thursday: Springfield 9, Frisco 4
  • Friday: 7:05 p.m. (Christmas in July ornament giveaway, to first 2,000 fans; post-game fireworks)
  • Saturday: 6:35 p.m. (Yadi Molina tumbler giveaway, to first 2,000 fans)
  • Sunday: 1:35 p.m. (Hiland Dairy Ice Cream Sunday; Kids Run the Bases post-game)

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, co-hosts The Sports Reporters on Jock 96.9 FM, 99.9 FM and 1060 AM on Monday mornings with Ned Reynolds and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at Lscranton755@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton