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.
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.
Thank you, John. RIP.