It begins with an adventurous, energetic 5-year-old boy hitting plastic balls with a plastic bat, filled with joy every time he connects.
Soon that toddler became a Little League All Star, then a four-year starter in high school, always the star, always the starter, always the best—but all that changed on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in the summer of 2014 on the baseball field at Fullerton College. For the first time in his life Bryan Leef wasn’t picked first. He wasn’t picked last — he wasn’t chosen at all. He didn’t make the team.
“When I found out I didn’t make the team, I just didn’t want to play anymore,” said Leef.
The six-foot-two teen with a baseball prowess, had lost his love for the game. “Once I was cut from Fullerton I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t see a future in baseball,” he added.
After two years away his mind was still on the game. The Yorba Linda native with the crooked smile a mischievous grin wanted another chance. He got stronger, he started hitting again — the joy was back.
He enrolled at Santa Ana College.
That shot came two years later when Leef encountered Tom Nilles the man who had cut him from Fullerton’s team, at his younger brothers high school All-Star game. Nilles had been the former Associate Head Coach at Fullerton College. “After a long conversation Nilles told me that he was now the Head Coach at SAC, so he asked me to try out for the team,” Leef said.
Leef made the team and has found a home with the Dons.
“After tryouts he congratulated me on making the team, and I was so happy,” Leef said. Being his first year back playing baseball, he added that it was a huge honor to be chosen and it proved that he could play at the college level and that he indeed does belong here.
His love for the game was back.
Today, the 21-year-old has established himself as one of the top hitters in the state.
In his first year at SAC Leef hit .309 with 51 hits and won the Conferences all-player award — given to a player who is chosen and recognized by all other coaches in the conference — Leef had never felt so honored in his life.
“Winning that award was a big honor because the coaches in the conference could have chosen anyone, but they agreed on highlighting me,” Leef said.
His younger brother Erick has been a big part of his life, and if not for his overwhelming support, Leef may have not found the motivation to continue playing baseball.
His brother played high school ball at Esperanza high school. Leef would show up to most games to watch his brother play during the time that he was not playing baseball. Amazed at his his brother’s hard work and the level he was playing at, Leef felt inspired.
“Seeing how well my brother was doing in all aspects of school and baseball, it showed me heart, and it pushed me to keep on playing again,” Leef said. His brother is now his teammate at Santa Ana.
Leef is grateful that he made the decision to continue baseball, he thanks everyone who has helped him to get where he is today. He no longer doubts his abilities, focusing on his future instead.
“I want to make it to the draft and play at the professional level. If it means having to play another year in college so be it. I just want to work my way up to the top and become what I’ve always wanted to be — a Major League Baseball player.”
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