There was the tryout for a Frontier League team in Pennsylvania. Then another in Connecticut. Another in San Jose.

For Farmingdale native Ryan Leach, this was chasing his dream. Leach pitched this spring for Franklin Pierce University, and he has every intention of pitching at the professional level.

“You pray that you throw your best, and someone gives you a shot,” Leach said.

Eventually, someone did. Leach signed earlier this month with the Quebec Capitales of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball, a four-team, independent league. Entering Wednesday night’s action, Leach had thrown 5 2/3 scoreless innings over five appearances.

“We see him in the future as a one-inning type guy late in the game,” Quebec manager Pat Scalabrini said. “Just the way he pitches, he’s going to be effective getting righties out, hopefully.” (Scalabrini, incidentally, is from Waterville, Quebec, a city of about 2,000 people on the Canadian border.)

Leach hoped he would be selected in annual Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June. But he had been inconsistent as a senior at Franklin Pierce, with a 5.48 ERA on one hand and 60 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings on the other.

“I didn’t have the kind of year I wanted to have at Franklin Pierce,” Leach said. “I just had to get myself in front of the right eyes. It’s a little discouraging. But at the same time, it’s a good reality check. It makes you work harder.”

Scalabrini is also involved in player acquisitions for the Capitales, and Leach was on his list of players to possibly look over. When two of Scalabrini’s contacts each mentioned Leach, the youngster was soon on his way to Rockland, N.Y., where the Capitales were playing a road game against the Rockland Boulders. Leach threw a bullpen session that amounted to another tryout.

“I knew he threw from the side and had a good, fresh arm,” Scalabrini said. “I just wanted to see if he was around the strike zone and had some action. Right away, we decided we were going to sign him and give him a chance.”

Leach began pitching almost immediately. The league’s website lists Quebec as officially signing him on Aug. 17, but his first game was Aug. 16, when he pitched a scoreless inning at Rockland.

The Can-Am League has players at many different stages of their careers. Leach, at 22, is the youngest player on the Quebec roster, but some players are in their late 20s, and pitcher Karl Gelinas is 31.

Gelinas pitched briefly in Triple-A in the Los Angeles Angels organization. Tom Vessella, another of Leach’s teammates, pitched Double-A ball for the San Francisco Giants last year. Eric Beaulac was a ninth-round pick of the New York Mets and got as high as Triple-A. Another pitcher, Ari Ronick, was a 12th-round pick of the Giants in 2008. Infielder Jonathan Malo spent three seasons between Double-A and Triple-A in the Mets organization.

“It’s a higher level than I’ve ever played before,” Leach said. “The guys are hunters — they look for a certain pitch, and then they kill it. It’s a very clean game, is a good way to describe it. Everyone’s very polished.”

Leach has quickly gone to pitching in key roles. On Tuesday night in New Jersey, he entered in the bottom of the eighth with one out and a runner on first, and Quebec trailing 3-2. The first two batters he had to face were Alonzo Harris, who is 25 years old but is in his seventh minor league season, and Jeremy Barnes, an 11th-round draft pick by the Phillies out of Notre Dame in 2009.

Leach walked Harris as the runner on first was caught stealing for the second out. With a 1-1 count on Barnes, Leach picked off Harris, who stole 25 bases for Double-A Binghamton (Mets organization) last summer.

Leach had a shot at his first professional win when Quebec put runners on first and third with nobody out in the top of the ninth, but the next three batters struck out, and New Jersey won, 3-2.

Off the field, of course, there are other adjustments. Leach’s cellphone couldn’t get service in Canada, so for about a week during a homestand he couldn’t receive any calls or texts. Leach said the Quebec locker room has players speaking English, French, Spanish, or sometimes all three.

Quebec, of course, is heavily populated with people who speak French, and the team’s website is in French (Leach is listed as a “lanceur” — French for “pitcher.”) Leach said he lives in an apartment near downtown Quebec, and a lot of his teammates have places in the same area.

“It’s a little difficult sometimes at restaurants,” Leach said. “For the most part, it’s been pretty easy. Half the guys speak French, so they’ve been really helpful.

“It’s a good time. We play at night, so sometimes during the day we’ll walk around, see new things, go get something to eat. It’s a good place to be, definitely.”

In many ways, Leach has made it. He has a page at baseball-reference.com. He’s getting paid to play baseball. The league’s games are live-streamed online . Quebec draws nearly 3,000 fans per game.

Although Leach is new to professional baseball, he knows everything’s a tryout, and he know how the ladder works: If you play well, or someone likes what they see, you’ll move up to another level. Scalabrini said Quebec has a couple players sign with Major League organizations every year. Right now, Leach is hoping to be on the roster when Quebec begins its 100-game season next spring.

“We haven’t crossed that path yet,” Leach said, “but I definitely would like to play here again next year.”

Leach has a few things going for him: He’s young, he’s pitching very effectively, and the Can-Am League rules are in his favor. Under league rules, teams must carry at least five rookies on their roster. Leach will end this season having pitched less than 30 innings, so he’ll also be classified as a rookie next season.

“It’s a commodity for us to have a good rookie,” Scalabrini said. “It’s extremely valuable for us to keep him. He knows we really like what he’s got.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.