Experienced coach signs on with Shelter Island Bucks
When the Shelter Island Bucks of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League take the field this spring, it will be under the guidance of Head Coach Jason Leta, bringing more than 20 years experience coaching young players.
“I see the Hamptons League as a player developmental league and the goal is to get guys at-bats and innings,” he said. “I want them to play. We’ll provide a structure and framework, but the imperative nature of this league is for the players to get game experience.”
Coach Leta’s ultimate goal is to provide playing time that might have eluded the players during their college season, Coach Leta said, calling the opportunity to coach the team “a great opportunity.”
He began his coaching career in 1998, and is starting his fourth year as an assistant baseball coach at The College of New Jersey, where he instructs catchers, assists hitters, coaches first base and recruits players.
The majority of his coaching experience has been at the junior college level, but he has also coached high school baseball players. Coach Leta played baseball at Kean University in Union and Ocean County College in Toms River, both in New Jersey. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in sports leadership at Concordia University-Chicago.
Coach Leta approaches his responsibilities with an attitude that the young men he coaches can play the game, and the challenge is not to build them up physically, but to prepare them mentally for the grind that a baseball season can become.
“This game is extremely mental and the players who can develop mental toughness can become very successful,” Coach Leta said.
As he sees it, his job is to give players game-time experience, believing the way to help them succeed is to enable them to “actually play the game. It’s about getting them better and there is no substitute than actually playing the game.”
The coach called it “imperative that position players get at-bats and pitchers get innings.”
His aim is not only to have a winning summer on the Island, but to return improved and healthy players to their schools, he said. “We will have a process on how to perform certain aspects of the game. Focusing on that process will result in the outcomes we want at the conclusion of the games,” Coach Leta said.
A specific priority for the Bucks will be to avoid giving away outs or freebies, he said. The job of a good program is for players to “throw strikes, make routine plays and put the ball in play,” the coach said. “The offense must put the pressure on the defense by putting the ball in play and always hustling. These are simple aspects that make a huge difference in an outcome of a game.”
When a team hits a losing streak, players and coaches need to stay positive and focus on the process, he said. “If you strive to play the game the right way, good things will come about. This will be the goal this summer,” Coach Leta said. “We want the players to play free and have fun. By creating this atmosphere and environment players can play to their apex and good things will happen.”
Assistant Coach Justin Brock
Returning for a second successive season is Assistant Coach Justin Brock, who was a Bucks player in 2013. Coach chased his own dream of a baseball career, playing in Quebec, Indiana, Australia and Cologne, Germany. Upon his return to the United States in 2018, in pursuit of a master’s degree in accounting, he coached at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.
If his desire was to see a Bucks team win a championship last summer, he will get a second chance to pursue that goal this summer working with Coach Leta.