Forever A Winner: John Leroy

I love the game of baseball; I always will. I also love where I grewup and naturally relate to those things and people around me that are also from my hometown/region. I remember hearing about this next story I’m about to share back when it happened… but I never got around to doing much “research” about John Leroy. After I did, my heart sank.

I graduated from Sammamish High School in Bellevue, WA. The Sammamish Totems baseball program has been one of the bigger doormats in high level Washington State Athletics. Such powerhouse high school teams such as Interlake, Newport, Mercer Island (and later Issaquah and Skyline HS) shared the conference with the Totems. They were beaten around high and low year after year. To date, SHS has never reached the state playoffs at any level.

As a baseball fan, enthusiast, and lover of the game… I will root for my alma mater to one day reach this pinnacle. But for now, we can celebrate that we had a former Totem drafted out of high school and reach the show.

(Note – ***There may have been a Totem that went to college and then was drafted and reached the bigs… but for this piece, we are saying no college players.***)

John Leroy was a Totem and made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves. Leroy began his playing career in 1993 with the Braves organization after being selected in the 15th round of the 1993 June MLB draft. The Bellevue, WA native moved through the Braves farm system quickly, reaching Double-A Greenville at the age of 21 in 1996, where he posted a 2.98 ERA in eight games.

Unfortunately, this is where the story becomes one of the sadder baseball stories you’ll find.

Leroy was a September call-up for the Braves. With the score 6-6, Leroy came in to pitch the 9th and 10th innings of a game versus the Mets at now-gone Shea Stadium. The Braves scored in extras and it made a winner out of Leroy.

Leroy sadly had issues with blood clots in his pitching arm and never appeared in the show again.

Following the 1998 season, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Leroy in the MLB Expansion draft. Soon thereafter, he experienced his first blood clot in his pitching arm.

In May of 1999, Leroy left the Devil Rays organization to rehabilitate his arm. He began his comeback in 2000 with the New Jersey Jackals in the Northern League East, where his performance convinced the Cincinnati Reds to purchase his contract and give him a late-season trial at Class AA Chattanooga.

After one outing in Independent ball, Leroy developed muscular pain. Pitching through pain, he made one more appearance but complained of numbness in his pitching arm. After visiting a circulation specialist, Leroy felt comfortable and chose to have corrective surgery performed in Sioux City. From doctors’ reports, Leroy was expected to return to the team in a month.

On Friday June 22nd, Leroy experienced what was believed to be a fatal aneurysm. An aneurysm occurs when a weakness in a vessel or artery causes a rupture, which leads to bleeding. Aneurysms are spontaneous events which occur without prior notice. His aneurysm was completely unrelated to his previous circulatory condition.

On June 25, 2001, at the age of 26, John Leroy passed away.

Your heart goes out to his family and friends. He was survived by his wife, (at the time) two young children and his parents. John won the only game he ever pitched in major league baseball. He will forever be a winner. He will forever be 1-0. He will forever be the Sammamish Totem that made it to the show.

I hate learning of stories like this, but if just one person reads this blog posting and it reminds them to be appreciative of everything they have been given… then my mission has been accomplished.

Thank you, John. RIP.

About Boydwonder

A Seattle guy that is blessed to live each day I am given!
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5 Responses to Forever A Winner: John Leroy

  1. John Ghosn says:

    Thank you for writing this article. I think of John often. I coached against him when he was 12 years old and playing in the Federal Little League Baseball in Bellevue. (the field is located on Lake Hills Blvd). Great kid and an amazing pitcher. I remember starting my best pitcher, who was a very good athlete, but still no match to John. He was amazing. I was in awe of Johns talent. I got to see him play for Sammamish High School (where I also went to school) once. He was a Sophmore and on the Varsity team. I remember being so proud just to know him. He was a man amongst boys.
    Bless you John Leroy-RIP
    John Ghosn

    • Carter says:

      I love telling my son I played with and against a future big leaguer when I was growing up! I knew John since kindergarten and even back in elementary school we knew he was destined for athletic greatness. He was always good in whatever sport or athletic activity he tried (still remember him dominating in kick ball and football during recess at Lake Hills Elementary). I am glad I knew him growing up and had a chance to be his catcher for a few games in high school (even with extra padding in my glove I still got bruises on my hand from his fastballs).

      John Ghosn, I think you may have been my coach at Federal Little League (Cardinals- 12 year old Major Division?). If I am correct then I want to say thank you for the time you spent volunteer coaching back then. Even though it was 26-27 years ago, I still remember that season well.

  2. Matt H. says:

    A little late on this post but I wanted to pay tribute to John. What an awesome talent! I played with and against John for 7 years. First on the Eastside All Stars basketball team in 7th and 8th grades. He wasn’t just good at baseball, he could do it all on the basketball court as well. He was also an all league WR on the football team and definitely could have played football in college. But he was best at baseball. My first HS at bat was against Leroy in the Kingco playoffs when we were both freshman. He struck me out on three pitches. He probably threw in the upper 80’s and was overpowering. Coming full circle, we played Sammamish the last day of the season in 1993 (our last high school game) and this was my first opportunity to face him since the freshman at bat. First AB he again struck me out on three pitches. I was able to get two hits (I think he let me hit them) in subsequent at bats. I was stretching with him in the outfield at Bannerwood park getting ready for the Kingco all star feeder game when he learned that the Braves drafted him. There were a few guys drafted that day but we all thought he had the best chance to make it. I knew that he had passed but did not know the circumstances. When I look back on those days I have some great memories of John. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Mario Lanza says:

    I knew John, we played together and against one another all throughout my childhood. He played for Bellevue Federal, I played for Bellevue National. He went to Sammamish, I went to Interlake. We finally got to play together on the same team for Bellevue Honda between 1991 and 1992.

    John was without question one of the big name athletes in the area at the time, any kid who played baseball in Bellevue in the 80’s knew about him and guys like Tom Evans and Brian Doughty. Any time you had to face one of those guys in a game you knew you were in trouble. In fact, I think my hands are STILL stinging from a time that Leroy jammed me on an inside pitch during an 8 AM day game at Sammamish. If you had to hit against him during a cold weather game (which was often), you would almost rather strike out than actually make contact. Just even fouling one of his fastballs off was enough to make your hands hurt.

    Here, I’ll tell you a story about John that no one else will tell you. In 1992 our Bellevue Honda team was playing in a tournament in Williston, North Dakota. John was pitching for us, and I was playing left field behind him. And let me tell you this, his performance that night was the single most dominating pitching performance I have ever seen in my life. And I’m talking little league, big leagues, college, high school. Anywhere. That night in North Dakota, Leroy pitched a completely dominant 7-inning no hitter. And he struck out 18 batters. Think about that for a second. Out of 21 possible batters, he struck out 18 of them. And I don’t think any of the three who didn’t strike out even hit it past the pitcher’s mound. I might as well have just sat down all game in the outfield, he didn’t need me. It was one of those performances that you will only see maybe once or twice in your life. And it was at that moment that I knew that John Leroy had gone from “the best pitcher in Bellevue” up to the next level.

    He wasn’t just a high school pitcher after that game anymore, he was now a major league pitcher. You just knew he was going to make the majors after a performance like that.

    The funny thing about that game in North Dakota is that he became a minor celebrity in Williston because of it. We were out there all week for a tournament, and the kids around town would just follow him around and stare whenever we were out in public. They were in awe of him. I had never seen a high school pitcher sign autographs before, but he signed a ton of them that week. It was the funniest thing.

    I never stayed in touch with John after I graduated from high school but I was sad when I read about his sudden passing in 2001. If I recall, he died in the middle of his surgery, he had an aneurysm in the middle of a completely routine arm operation and just like that, it was over. I am pretty sure he had just had a baby too. It’s one of those stories that you always remember because of how unfair it was.

    I actually sponsored John’s page at for a couple of years. I’m glad to see that people remember him these days and take the time to actually write websites about him. Thank you for the writeup of one of the Eastside greats. Keep up the great work!

    -Mario Lanza
    Upland, CA (formerly of Bellevue, WA)

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