Moving Forward: Coen Leage: Living A Baseball Player’s Dream at Cooperstown, NY

Written by Judy Salamacha

August 25, 2023

For the love of the game SLO Tigers Club Baseball team finds time to clown around. Coen Leage 4th from center in front row.

The summer of ‘23 will be a forever memory for Morro Bay’s Coen Leage. His 7th grade classmates at Los Osos Middle School have probably already heard his story if his teacher asked, “What did you do over summer vacation?” I decided to ask and he answered. 

“I mostly played baseball,” he smiled.

Coen had arrived at our scheduled interview sporting an L.A. Dodgers cap and a Cooperstown Hall of Fame ring with a big blue sapphire. His comment had seemed casual, and yet it was delivered with a confidence he must have learned over years playing SLO County Club baseball. But it was his hard work that earned him summertime bonus innings playing Hall of Fame baseball for two different local teams competing at the Cooperstown Dreams Park HOF Invitational Tournament. 

His dad, Travis Leage, got to spend his two-week summer vacation enjoying his youngest son play excellent baseball. Week #1 Coen played on the team he usually played with, SLO Tigers Club Baseball. Week #2 he was a draft pick for STB Elite of Santa Maria. 

According to their website, since 1996 Cooperstown has hosted “America’s Baseball Summer Camp.” In 2023 ninety teams from all over the United States played in week-long tournaments. The camp’s stated purpose is for their youthful competitors to discover “baseball tradition in the most unique tournament in the country. Participants develop an appreciation for tradition, values of faith, country, and baseball.” At Cooperstown Dreams Park, youth are inspired “…to be whatever they want to be and use the fundamental principles of baseball…team, hard work, sportsmanship and their time at Dreams Park as a reminder that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.” 

Responding to the question about what he experienced in Cooperstown besides playing baseball, he said, “We did cool baseball stuff. We didn’t stay with our folks. We hung out in our bunks (translated for me as dormitory) and played wiffle ball or watched other games.” 

Coen added a major highlight of his trip was visiting Baseball’s Hall of Fame with his dad. “We learned some good stuff about baseball’s past and my dad bought me a Hank Aaron jersey. He didn’t have to. It was pretty expensive, but he did.” Coen beamed again. 

The business at hand in Cooperstown, however, was to play to win games. Each team had 11 to 13 members that traveled to Cooperstown. Coen is multi-skilled at shortstop, pitcher, catcher, and 2nd base. He was invited to stay an extra week and play for the STB Elite team. “My favorite is shortstop. Second base is usually for short people. I plan to be 6-feet or 6-feet-2.”

His mom, Cherise Hansson Leage, explained the parents had been planning and fund raising for almost three years for their sons to be able to make the trip. “Their job was to practice hard and prove to their coach who belonged in the starting positions. STB Elite was put together by pulling good players together from different club teams from Santa Maria, Lompoc, Nipomo and SLO.”

“I was on the Tigers when we were ten and we’ve been practicing for Cooperstown. I had to wait two years,” Coen added, “Tigers did well, but Elite did better. I liked playing with both teams.”

KSBY Sports reporter Ashley Stevens had been following our local teams in Cooperstown and filed a story that I was able to view on TikTok. She reported, “The STB Elite lost just once in their last game against the ELS Bats Red, a team out of Kentucky, by a final score of 17-14 and they placed 5th out of total of 90 teams.” She interviewed Coach Robert Reynoso. “Definitely exciting to hear that and to know that,” he told her. “Not a lot of big baseball teams could do that well – very impressive. We work hard nine months of the year. These boys give us their hard work.” 

Coen’s Elite teammate Johan Reyes commented to Stevens that they had to learn to play against a different style of baseball. He learned East Coast coaches played their teams more defensively. “Honestly, they are a little bit less aggressive than we are.” 

Besides lots of heart for the game along with years of hard work, they found another secret weapon in Cooperstown. An inanimate toy green dragon they named Jerry seemed to give them confidence according to Elite team player Julian Romero’s comment on the video. 

Coen agreed, “Every time we did something good, we would chant ‘Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.’ Some other parents would try and get into our heads and chant Jerry, Jerry, but they couldn’t do it well. I heard some other parents shout out ‘Come on, parents, be original. Find your own chant.”

How did Coen determine his personal success at Cooperstown? “My first week with the Tigers I hit no home runs. My second week with the Elite I hit four. All together, I think we hit 29 homeruns.” He started remembering and counting in his head, “Maybe even 60 home runs.”  

Playing baseball at club level is hard work and a commitment for both boys and girls and their parents. They take a break in August, but all the other months of the year the Leage family travels 30-minutes each way for Coen’s practices three to four times a week. With Coen’s versatility on the mound and in the field, he plays for five club teams – Tigers, Elite, Gamecocks, Cali Nationals and BPA (Baseball Performance Academy). Plus, families attend games all year round all over the county and Santa Maria.

“I’m playing football too. My dad thinks it will make me tougher and faster playing football.” Coen added, “I’m already pretty fast with my gear on, but I want to get faster.” 

Some great news is Coen has 7th and 8th at Los Osos Middle School before going to high school to beef up, plus he won’t have to travel to practice as far because his Tigers coach, Stephen Bishop will start in 2023-34 as baseball coach at Morro Bay High School.

Well experienced at keeping his eye on the ball and going for the win, Coen asked me, “How much longer is this going? I’m really hungry.” 

So, for a final thought on Coen Leage’s Cooperstown experience, “For baseball, funnest time of my life.” 

  

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