Bear Cubs Spotlight: Alex Leopard

Bear Cubs outfielder and pitcher Alex Leopard strikes out the side to close out the 21-9 victory against College of Marin on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Santa Rosa.
Bear Cubs outfielder and pitcher Alex Leopard strikes out the side to close out the 21-9 victory against College of Marin on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Santa Rosa.
Nick Vides

Sophomore Alex Leopard missed out on the entire 2022 baseball season at Santa Rosa Junior College after breaking the hamate bone in his hand on a swing during practice. 

Setbacks are nothing new to Leopard, however neither is overcoming them. After missing five and a half months recovering from surgery, Leopard is firing on all cylinders as an outfielder and pitcher as SRJC’s 2024 baseball season is underway.

Leopard grew up in Sebastopol and attended Analy High School where he began playing varsity baseball as a freshman. He played with other SRJC Baseball standouts, including Noah Rabin (Illinois State), Tyler Stasiowksi (UC Berkeley) and Colton Lomanto (UC San Diego) — all of whom started at Analy, went to SRJC, and now play Division 1 baseball. Lomanto and Leopard will be teammates once again in 2025 at UCSD. 

Leopard knew he wanted to dedicate himself to baseball long before playing at SRJC. However, he took no issue in admitting that his drive to be great came from a more negative place than most.

“My sophomore year [of high school] I was riding pretty high from my freshman year, and I played terribly,” he said. “I think I hit .220. During that season I was a little pissed off. I was like, ‘Why is this happening?’ After school is over, I go hang out with friends and I go do what’s fun. I don’t go hit on my own. I don’t do anything like that. I went to the gym a little bit, but I wasn’t dedicating myself to it. I know I had a bad season, but I love this game, and I wanted to see how good I can make myself.”

Leopard prepared for his junior season in 2020, but once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, baseball seasons across the country ended prematurely. Leopard spoke fondly of his and his teammates’ experience finding a way to get work in despite the pandemic. 

“We really bonded in COVID,” he said. “We went and worked out at Colton Lomanto’s house. His friend has a little gym, and we’d go hit in his batting cage. I think we did that for like, a year straight. That was super fun.”

Bear Cubs outfielder Alex Leopard erupts with joy after hitting an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh against Reedley College on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Santa Rosa. (Nick Vides)

Due to the pandemic, he decided to graduate high school early,  believing there’d be no baseball season. This, combined with his proximity to SRJC, his friends going to SRJC and a desire to develop more before attempting to go to Division 1 made the decision to graduate early and jumpstart his college baseball career a no-brainer.

In his first year at SRJC, Leopard red-shirted, not playing in the season while still being on the team, developing his skills and not losing a year of eligibility. He spoke fondly of his experience, despite missing out on a senior season in high school.

“It was different. The guys were bigger. They threw harder. The game was faster and it was more challenging,” he said. “I had a really great time with those guys and bonded with them. It was really nice to get that first feeling of what the JC would be like, and get to share the time with them. I still have a lot of good friends from that team.” 

Leopard was raring to go in 2022 after so much uncertainty and lost time during the pandemic. However, he suffered the setback of breaking his hamate bone that cost him his season.

“It was just a normal swing. I fouled it back and really hurt my hand and I was shaking it off. Then I realized I couldn’t swing when I tried to do a half-hearted swing, and after I was like, ‘Oh, this is bad,’” Leopard said.

Leopard grew restless through his five and a half months of recovery.

“The recovery was tough for me. It was tough to be away from the game. I took one-handed swings and tried to just do it. I wanted to play but it was out of my hands,” he said.

Leopard finished his recovery at the beginning of that summer and immediately got back to work. He suited up for a collegiate summer team, the Sonoma Stompers alongside Noah Rabin and Colton Lomanto once again. 

He finally got to play for SRJC in 2023 after years of anticipation.

“I think towards the beginning of it my nerves got to me a bit. I was a little too excited to go play. But then once things got rolling it was amazing to play with that team,” Leopard said. “I love that team. We were really good and a bunch of good guys, and we made it pretty far.” 

Leopard got rolling and never looked back. He hit .301 with four home runs and 34 RBI, with a .421 on-base percentage and .497 slugging percentage. He was named to the Big 8 All-Conference 1st Team, alongside teammates Connor Charpiot, Evan Johnson and Jake McCoy. 

SRJC Baseball head coach Damon Neidlinger spoke highly of Leopard and what he brings to the program on and off the field.

“Alex epitomizes student-athlete in every aspect,” he said. “He is a great student and a very good athlete. Alex has a pure love of the game of baseball and works at getting better every day. Been very fortunate to have a young man of Alex’s character in the baseball program.”

Tony Suarez, a fellow SRJC red-shirt sophomore and Sonoma Stomper, recalled a clutch performance by Leopard for the Bear Cubs in the playoffs last season. “His grand slam against Delta to open the game up won us the series,” Suarez said.

Suarez also praised Leopard as a teammate.

Bear Cubs outfielder Alex Leopard celebrates after hitting a double in the bottom of the fourth against Cañada College on Thursday, May 11, 2023 in Santa Rosa. (Nick Vides)

“Leopard’s energy and effort into the game is something you don’t see in everyone. That guy always has a smile on his face and loves to compete,” Suarez said. 

Leopard played for the Healdsburg Prune Packers this past summer under head coach Joey Gomes, whom Leopard attributed as a major influence. 

“I think my greatest mentor is Joey Gomes. I’ve hit with him since I was seven. He’s a really good guy. He taught me the mental side of hitting,” Leopard said.

Leopard has burst onto the scene so far in 2024, hitting .395 with four home runs in the Bear Cubs’ first 12 games of the season. 

“I feel good,” he said. “I like the guys that came back. I think we’ve got a good chance to go back and see what we can do in the playoffs. That’s the goal, winning it all. 

As for his personal goal, he hopes to keep playing the sport he loves and eventually get paid to do it. “I want to play at the highest level. That’s my goal. Just keep going.”

Bear Cubs centerfielder and pitcher Alex Leopard, middle, is all smiles alongside teammate Keenan Morris, right, after their win against Sierra College on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024 in Santa Rosa. (Nick Vides)

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About the Contributors
Oliver Kindt
Oliver Kindt, Reporter
Oliver Kindt (he/him) is a journalism major in his second semester at SRJC and first at The Oak Leaf. He is an aspiring sports writer who will be covering primarily baseball and softball this spring.
Nick Vides
Nick Vides, Photo-Editor
Nicholas “Nick” Vides (he/him) Is a seasoned breaking news reporter dedicated to making sure every shutter click of his camera captures a moment worth sharing. Nick's itch for chasing fires has kept him busy over the past seven years, covering every major fire event in Northern California from the Paradise Fire to the Caldor Fire. Nick currently splits his time as a photojournalist with The Oak Leaf and as a Contract Photographer with The Press Democrat. He has more than nine years of experience with photography, has been director of photography for multiple short films with the SRJC Media Arts Center, directed numerous student-led broadcasts with his Media 19 class, and interned for The Sarah and Vinnie Show on Alice 97.3. In the little free time left, he works for Highway 12 Winery in Sonoma, California as a Cellar Hand.  

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