7 - Frank Leoni
Frank Leoni
Born: 11/28/1968
Hometown: Cranston, R.I.
Position: Head Coach
Coaching:
Head Coach, Rhode Island, 1993-present

When Frank Leoni looks back on the immense success his program experienced in 2004, one question seeps into his mind. "How can we improve and make ourselves better?" the 13th-year Rhode Island head coach wonders. Leoni describes himself as a dreamer. However, few people have the determination and work ethic to make their biggest dreams come true. This is not the case for Leoni, who has painstakingly built his alma mater into a northeast region power over the last decade. Last season, Leoni earned New England Coach of the Year honors and was the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year for the second-straight season after his squad won a school-record 35 games. The Rams are coming off back-to-back Atlantic 10 East crowns and have been to the conference championship each of the last two years. Despite the success and accolades, Leoni hardly feels satisfied. In fact, his desires for URI have only grown. "I want it to be truly important that the Rhode Island baseball team wins," Leoni said. "I believe someday we could get this team to the college World Series. I am a dreamer, but I believe we can do it." He's not the only one. Baseball America picked his squad to win the Atlantic 10 conference and earn its first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament. Collegiate Baseball ranked the Rams 66th nationally in its preseason poll, proving that Leoni has the program pointed in the right direction. With a veteran squad poised for another run at the A-10 title, Leoni's task this season is to keep his players focused. In past years, Leoni has shown a penchant for motivating his players to rise up. Now he must keep his players at a peak level throughout the year. "The shoe is on the other foot now," Leoni said. "It's easier to get to the top than to stay at the top. We are going to get everyone's best shot every game. Every opponent is going to say, 'These are the guys we have to beat if we want to get to the A-10s.'" It wasn't always this way. When he first took over the program in 1993, Leoni had to endure plenty of growing pains. He never, however, had to accept losing as a way of life. "I had to learn how to lose in order to learn how to win," said Leoni, whose team has won 36 conference games over the last two seasons. "As a program, we are starting to turn a corner, and we can keep it going. This is what all the hard work was for." With its 35-20-1 mark last season, Rhode Island has now won at least 24 games for six-straight years. The 20-4 record in A-10 play made the Rams just the second school in league history to achieve 20 conference victories. Appearances in the last two A-10 tournament finals marked the school's first postseason bids since 1984. The team success has Leoni's players garnering increased exposure both nationally and at the next level. Following the 2004 season, second-team All-American Dan Batz was a sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That came on the heels of pitchers Reid Willett (Chicago Cubs, 21st round) and Jared Trout (Oakland Athletics, 28th round) getting drafted following the 2003 season. In 2001, Mike LaBarbera was an All-American before signing with the Montreal Expos. Current Rhody pitcher Zack Zuercher was a third-team All-American last spring and has been named a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America, along with earning a spot on the watch lists for both College Player of the Year and College Pitcher of the Year. Several other Rams have caught the eye of Major League scouts, especially senior pitchers Dan Frederick and Mick Lefort. "It only makes sense that when the team is successful, players are going to get more looks at the next level," Leoni said. "The more success we have, the more attractive the program becomes. It shows in the quality of players we've had recently." It's not just the players who have experienced success. Last season Leoni became the school's all-time leader in victories, ending the season with 232 career wins. Along the way he passed the mark of 222 wins set by legendary ABCA Hall of Famer Frank Keaney. Building the Rhode Island program holds extra special meaning for Leoni. The Cranston R.I native was an Atlantic 10 All-Academic performer as a shortstop for the Rams, and he prides himself on his player's performance both on the field and in the classroom. His players have an outstanding graduation rate, displaying the program's desire to attract top performers both on the field and in the classroom. Leoni has also built his reputation in the community, running dozens of clinics for local children during his tenure. His summer camps at Bill Beck field are among the most popular on campus. In addition, Leoni held camps in the fall for high school players and in the winter for kids ages seven and up. Under Leoni's watch, Bill Beck Field has undergone tremendous improvements in the last five years. The projects that Leoni has overseen have produced a new infield, a new underground sprinkler system, new dugouts, a new backstop, new outfield fencing, bullpens and batting cages, and a state of the art scoreboard. Plans are being made to install permanent stadium-style seating to the complex. In June of 2003, Leoni completed his M.B.A. at Rhode Island. He and his wife Kerri reside in Richmond with their daughters Karsen, 4, and Casey, who was born in July of 2004.

LEONI'S CAREER MILESTONES

*1st Win: March 14, 1993 vs. Wagner, 16-7
50th Win: April 12, 1997 vs. St. Bonaventure, 9-8
100th Win: March 26, 2000 at Central Connecticut state, 4-1
150th Win: March 2, 2002 at Norfolk State, 6-2
1st Atlantic 10 Win: March 27, 1993 at Rutgers, 4-3
50th Atlantic 10 Win: March 31, 2001 at Temple, 4-3
200th Win: March 10, 2004 vs. Lehigh, 12-11
223rd Career Win:May 1, 2004 vs. Massachusetts, 10-7

* -- First game as head coach at the University of Rhode Island

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