Phils' prospect Mark Leiter Jr. felt at home at Lakewood

Mark Leiter Jr. finished the season with the , going 2-0 with 20 strikeouts. Lakewood BlueClaws
Mark Leiter Jr. finished the season with the , going 2-0 with 20 strikeouts. Lakewood BlueClaws (Lakewood BlueClaws)
Posted: September 05, 2013

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - Pitching for the Phillies' single-A Lakewood BlueClaws has provided righthander Mark Leiter Jr. all the comforts of home.

Literally.

Leiter hails from Lanoka Harbor, N.J., and attended Toms River North High school before competing for four years at New Jersey Institute of Technology. He became the first player from NJIT drafted when the Phillies selected him in the 22d round in June.

And after making 11 relief appearances for the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team and playing in two games at single-A Clearwater, he finished this season at Lakewood, about a 22-mile drive from his family's home, where he is staying.

In three games with the BlueClaws, Leiter went 2-0 with 20 strikeouts and five walks in 16 innings. His ERA was 0.00. The BlueClaws' season ended Sunday with a 3-1 win over Greensboro.

"It's been a great experience so far, being able to go from my house to field is really cool and also having friends and family so close that can watch me pitch," said Leiter, 22. "It is special."

His father, Mark Leiter Sr., feels the same way.

The elder Leiter played for eight major-league teams, including the Phillies, during a career that ended in 2001 with the Milwaukee Brewers. His brother Al was a two-time all-star who won 162 games in the majors and another brother, Kurt, was a minor-leaguer in the Baltimore Orioles system.

So this is a true baseball family. Mark Leiter Sr. says it has been such a thrill to follow his son's career.

"I stopped playing pro when he was 11 and I never missed anything he has ever done and it has always been a lot of fun," he said.

Mark Leiter Sr. runs his own business, giving pitching lessons. During the winter, he conducts lessons at FirstEnergy Park, home of the BlueClaws. Mark Leiter Jr. helps his father with the lessons.

"My dad has helped me in baseball more than anybody could hope for," Leiter Jr. said. "He has taught me so much."

A big thrill for Leiter Jr. was his first game and start for Lakewood, a 5-0 victory at Delmarva, Md., on Aug. 19. Leiter allowed just two hits in five innings, striking out four and walking one.

"That was a special time," Leiter said. "My mom was able to see me throw for the first time as a pro and my dad and sisters were able to come out."

Even though he struck out 20 in a game during his senior year at NJIT, Leiter is not known as a pitcher who will consistently overpower batters. He is one who has to rely on changing speeds, hitting spots and keeping batters off balance.

"He did very well earlier this summer and earned the opportunity to go to Lakewood," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development. "He is a very confident kid, will throw it over the plate, and really knows what he is doing out there."

If Leiter's first win for Lakewood was a big deal, his home debut for the BlueClaws was even more impressive. He pitched six shutout innings and received a no-decision in a 2-1 win over the same Delmarva team on Aug. 24. Leiter allowed six hits, struck out eight, and walked one.

As much as Leiter Jr. is enjoying his time at Lakewood, he hopes he isn't there for an extended time. The key for the pitcher and for any player is to keep moving up the system.

"Wherever I am told to pitch, I just want to focus on improving," Leiter Jr. said. "Whether it's Lakewood or anywhere else, I'm just looking to execute."


Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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