Leyland family gets blast from the past in Jamestown

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JAMESTOWN, N.Y. -- Patrick Leyland has seen the picture in the den of his home. He knows there's family history here.

The picture is of his father, Jim Leyland, in 1965. The current Detroit Tigers manager and former manager of the Pirates is wearing a Jamestown uniform. Leyland played one season for Jamestown and, according to baseball-reference.com, had a batting average of .237 with one home run.

On July 17 and 18, Pat Leyland, 21, played in Russell Diethrick Park, the same stadium where his father played for a season. But Leyland doesn't play for the hometown Jammers. Instead, he plays for the visiting Connecticut Tigers, a short-season Class A team in the Detroit minor league system.

In the Tigers' first game against the Jammers, Leyland, a first baseman, went 3 for 4. The next night, he went 1 for 4 with a double.

While Leyland enjoyed playing against his father's old team, the more exciting aspect of the series for him was to play the Pirates affiliate.

"It's always cool to play the Pirates," Leyland said.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pat Leyland has always been a Pirates fan, especially because his dad managed the team for 10 years. Leyland, a graduate of Bishop Canevin High School, still lives in Pittsburgh and still watches the Pirates despite his Detroit affiliation. "I'm always pulling for them," Leyland said. "I'm open about it. That's where I live. I've seen them all the way from the start."

Leyland trains in the offseason with former Pirates trainer Frank Velasquez five days a week.

Still, playing in Jamestown has its perks. Pat's mother, Katie Leyland, was able to make the three-hour drive from Pittsburgh to watch her son play.

Even Jim Leyland has fond memories of Jamestown. He told the Detroit Free Press he remembers driving one of the team's vehicles because they didn't all have cars, and that they needed a spotlight because of all the deer running around.

When he got to town, Pat Leyland had a message about Jamestown for his father, too.

"This place is probably the exact same when you were here, dad," Jim Leyland said his son told him.

So 48 years later, with his son playing in the same ballpark, memories flooded into Jim Leyland's mind of the town he once called home.

"I loved it," he said. "I had a ball there."

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Mike Vernon: mvernon@post-gazette.com and Twitter @m_vernon.


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