Brad Leach’s baseball career had finished before his 23rd birthday. But In that short career, Leach was one of Maine’s best-known and most successful pitchers of his era. The 6-foot1 Thornton Academy graduate was a two-time All-Telegram League selection striking out 196 batters in his final two seasons and posting a 18-4 three-year record.
Leach twice led the Owen-Davis American Legion Post 96 from Saco to state championships in 1954 and 1955 and was selected as the state American Legion most valuable player following the 1955 tournament.
Charlie Mistos, the Owen-Davis Legion coach and a former minor-league pitcher, had a big influence on Leach.
“Charlie knew a lot about pitching and he was a great teacher, said Leach.
“You just had to learn something from him.”
Leach would trade a football scholarship at the University of Connecticut after his freshman year for a chance to play baseball and eventually signed a big league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 3, 1961.
He was sent to Asheville, N.C., in the Sally League and then posted a 2-1 record in Hobbs, N.M., before coming home to Maine to pursue a teaching and coaching Career.
“Nobody knew about me as a baseball player when I went to Connecticut, said Leach.
“| noticed one of our pitchers was offered a big contract with the Milwaukee Braves and that’s when | thought I’d give ft a try.
I saw baseball was going to be more lucrative.”
As a sophomore, Leach threw a two-hitter that helped UConn get into the College World Series.
However, an arm injury at the end of his junior year would ultimately slow his climb in the big leagues. Still, Leach posted an 11-4 record with a 2.44 ERA, including a 1.08 ERA as a senior at UConn. His size, fastball and potential attracted the scouts. "Scouts were all over the place,” said Leach.
“My arm wasn’t right but that didn’t seem to matter to them.”
Leach thought he’d give the big league career at least three years but when Deering High called with an offer of teaching and coaching positions, baseball was put on hold. The scouts kept calling but the decision was made.
“I was married and had a young son, said Leach.
“| don’t regret my choice.” Leach served as a baseball assistant to legendary Deering coach Freddy Harlow.
After one year away from the game, Leach’s arm recovered - and Leach credits part of the recovery to Harlow and his enthusiasm for the game.
“| rested my arm for almost a year and it was alive.” said Leach.
“it was better than ever.”
“Freddy was unique, I wish I had met him before I left baseball. ” But after one year at Deering, Leach was on his way to a successful football coaching career at Thornton, winning the state championship in his first year in 1963.
He would coach for eight years and later serve as athletic director for 21 years, retiring in 1991.
Now, he’s considering a comeback with a team of Senior Olympic players.
Though Leach was a baseball standout, he was best known as a football player in high school.
He was a two-time All State halfback and led the maroon and gold to a state football championship in 1955 when he was named a high school All American and the state's top player.
He was also a standout in track and basketball. Leach lives in Saco with his wife Jean, and has three children, David, Alison and Dan.