KINGSTON, R.I. - Rhode Island baseball redshirt senior Mike LeBel has been selected as a candidate for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award, announced by Premier Sports Management. LeBel is one of 30 NCAA Division I student-athletes in the running for this year's award.
To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
Originally a candidate for the 2012 Senior Class Award, LeBel's senior campaign was quickly derailed as he sustained a season-ending injury after just 13 at-bats. At that point, he was hitting .538 (7-13) with three extra-base hits, five runs scored, three RBI and three stolen bases. A four-year starter in the Rhode Island infield, LeBel did not want the injury to his non-throwing shoulder to prevent him from contributing to the team, so he moved to the Rams' bullpen and made two relief appearances before eventually deciding to undergo surgery and return for a fifth year in 2013.
During this time away from the diamond, LeBel mentored freshman Tim Caputo, who took over as URI's starting shortstop and went on to earn Atlantic 10 All-Rookie honors. This season, both Caputo and LeBel were selected by the A-10 coaches as the league's top-two defensive infielders.
LeBel's "team before self" mentality and "lead by example" demeanor have earned him the role of team co-captain for the past three years as he is highly respected by both his teammates and coaches.
"Mike is as good as it gets as far as makeup is concerned — he is a great teammate, a great student, a very good player and an even better person who comes from a great family," said head coach Jim Foster. "He is all about the team and will do whatever he can to help us win. I really can't say enough about all of the things he does for our program, both on and off the field."
Last fall, the Rams were forced to deal with the loss of a teammate when Rhode Island redshirt freshman Joey Ciancola's sudden death shook the entire URI community. True to his character, LeBel remained a rock for his team throughout this very difficult time. He and his teammates created "Flow for Joe" and refrained from cutting their hair throughout the 2012 baseball season as a tribute to Ciancola and his long hair. Most recently, the Rhody baseball team held a pond hockey game in honor of Ciancola - a two-sport athlete in baseball and hockey - and fittingly called it "The Ciancola Classic".
LeBel also draws motivation from his best friend, Patrick White, who passed away from rhabdomyosarcoma (a rare form of tissue cancer) when LeBel was 15 years old. Not only were the two best friends, they were teammates as well, with LeBel playing shortstop and White playing second base. LeBel now wears White's former jersey number (#7) as a way of keeping his best friend out on the field with him.
LeBel has been involved with the Patrick White Jimmy Fund Baseball Tournament since 2001. Played in memory of his best friend and former teammate, the tournament has raised more than $200,000 for the Jimmy Fund. When LeBel was too old to play in the tournament, he continued to help out in any way he could — from assisting with concessions, raffles and public address, to throwing ceremonial first pitches and presenting checks to the Jimmy Fund at the annual Jimmy Fund Telethon held at Fenway Park in Boston. In 2010, a memorial for Patrick White was erected at Adams Field in Quincy, Mass. and LeBel was chosen to unveil it in front of the community.
In addition to his involvement with the Jimmy Fund, LeBel has also volunteered at the Animal Rescue League of Southern Rhode Island as well as various elementary schools throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He served as a museum docent at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and assists with the Gull Point Yacht Club's community events in his hometown of Quincy, Mass. He also has participated in URI's annual breast cancer awareness event and has served as a volunteer instructor at numerous baseball camps and clinics. Along with his teammates, LeBel has taken an active role in generating autism awareness - a cause that is especially important to head coach Jim Foster as his daughter, Delaney, is affected by autism. Through team's annual Autism Awareness game, URI has raised more than $10,000 for the Autism Project of RI.
Since LeBel's arrival at Rhode Island, the Rams have posted four consecutive 30+ win seasons. As a freshman, he helped lead URI to a school-record 37 victories. He entered this season having started in 168 games since 2009 and is a career .317 hitter with 208 hits, 158 runs, 38 doubles, 25 home runs, 114 RBI, 63 stolen bases and a .522 slugging percentage.
Twice recognized in College Baseball Insider's coaches poll as the Atlantic 10's Best Infield Arm/Best Defensive Infielder (2012-13) and tabbed one of the Atlantic 10's top MLB Draft prospects by Baseball America, he has collected Atlantic 10 All-Conference, All-Championship and All-Rookie awards and also was selected to play in the 2011 New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) All-Star Game.
After just three years at URI, he owned the career home runs record. He also is on pace to set new all-time records in runs, total bases, extra base hits and assists and will likely end his career ranked fifth or better in hits, doubles, triples, RBI, stolen bases, slugging percentage and sacrifices.
A Finance major, LeBel is a five-time Dean's List honoree and four-time member of the Atlantic 10 Commissioner's Honor Roll (semester GPA of 3.50 or better). He is a recipient of URI's Scholar-Athlete Award as well as a member of the Atlantic 10 All-Academic Team. Most recently, he represented and addressed all of Rhode Island's Dean's List student-athletes as the selected speaker at URI's annual reception for Dean's List honorees.
Additionally, he is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and has served as a featured blogger for College Baseball Daily for the past two seasons.
The 2013 Baseball Senior Class candidate class includes 15 candidates who have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Five were named to the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-American team, and four were All-Americans.
From the list of 30 candidates, a national media committee will select ten finalists for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award in April. Those 10 names will then be placed on the official ballot for a nationwide vote. Fan balloting will be coupled with votes from coaches and media to determine the recipient of the award.