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Yankees give ex-Brandon, USF standout Myron Leslie one last shot at majors

TAMPA — For the past seven years, Myron Leslie has lived a minor-league life in a world that cares only for the majors, a life long on frustration and short on rewards.

Now it is a life that has come full circle.

Leslie, 27, a former star at Brandon High and USF, is back in the bay area trying to revitalize his career with the Tampa Yankees of the Class A Florida State League.

He plays his home games at Steinbrenner Field, where he had hoped to spend spring training one day in the big leagues.

"I always thought what it would be like to be here," Leslie said.

"I get the chance to play in front of family and friends and sleep in my own bed each night."

The only thing Leslie could not imagine was the route he took to get there.

In high school and college, Leslie possessed magnificent skills playing primarily as an infielder. In 2004, while he was with USF, scouts flocked to see him, weighing every conceivable attribute.

He left as the Bulls' career leader in hits (312), games (241), doubles (74), runs (227) and walks (174). During his senior season in 2004, he led USF in batting (.361), doubles (23) and runs (60).

That same year, Leslie was drafted by the A's in the eighth round. His best season was 2006, when he hit .273 with 17 home runs and 100 RBIs for Stockton of the Class A California League.

But he didn't sustain those numbers while spending the next five seasons in the A's system, none above Double A.

In 2009, he was released.

"It wasn't a complete shock," Leslie said. "The A's had signed a lot of free agents that year, which was going to delay my progress. I felt I was being squeezed out."

No big-league club offered him a tryout. So he spent last season with the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Canadian-American Association, hitting .272 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs.

It wasn't enough to get the attention of a major-league team.

This spring, Eddie Cardieri, who coached Leslie at USF, called and offered a suggestion.

"I asked Myron if he was willing to try catching," said Cardieri, who is now coaching with the Macon (Ga.) Pinetoppers of the independent Peach State League. "He put up pretty good numbers in Oakland's organization, but they might not have projected well as an infielder in the big leagues.

"He never really caught before except in instructional games, but he looked like (former major-league standout catcher) Charles Johnson behind the plate. And if he put up the same numbers as a catcher, he could be an All-Star."

Leslie (6 feet 3, 220 pounds) took a day to think about it before agreeing to switch. Cardieri then called Mark Newman, the Yankees' senior vice president of baseball operations, to see if the organization was willing to give Leslie a tryout.

It was.

And it wasn't just a one- or two-day evaluation. The Yankees gave him a 30-day tryout during spring training before assigning him to Tampa.

"You have to give the Yankees credit for really taking a good look at him," Cardieri said.

It took a while for Leslie to adjust to the nuances of his new position such as calling pitches, keeping runners in check and helping position the defense.

"It's something that takes getting used to day in and day out," Leslie said. "I think it's something that will make me more valuable as a player down the road."

Entering Friday, Leslie was hitting .254 with seven doubles and 20 RBIs in 46 games.

His hopes of quickly moving up the organizational ladder, though, could be hindered due to a surplus of catching talent the Yankees have in the minors.

Still, Leslie is happy to have another chance to make it.

"This is a great opportunity the Yankees have given me," Leslie said. "I don't know if I will make it to the majors, but I'm trying to make the most of it."

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com.

Yankees give ex-Brandon, USF standout Myron Leslie one last shot at majors 07/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 9:36pm]
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