The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks of the FCBL are excited to announce the hiring of Frank Leoni as their head coach for the 2015 season.  Team board member Scott Lively commented, “We are thrilled to bring Frank back to his New England roots. He has a proven record over more than two-decades as a college coach and we are confident he will help the Sharks improve as a team, both on and off the field.”

“I am extremely excited and honored to be the next head coach of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks.  I want to thank the team’s board for this incredible opportunity. “ Leoni went on to say, “The FCBL continues to build its reputation as one of the finest summer collegiate baseball leagues.  College coaches not only want to send their players to play in a great league, but they also want them to have an overall positive summer experience.  I can’t think of a better place than Martha’s Vineyard to accomplish both”

“Our goals will include developing our players, winning an FCBL championship and being great members of the Vineyard community.”

Leoni brings twenty-two years of head coaching experience to the Sharks. He is currently the head coach at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, where he was hired in 2012 to start the baseball program from scratch. Prior to Marymount Leoni was the head coach at William & Mary. With the Tribe, Leoni posted 196 wins in seven seasons and was the fastest coach to reach 100 victories in program history.

Leoni took the helm at his alma mater, URI, in September of 1992 as the youngest D-I head coach in the nation, inheriting a program that went 8-25-1 the year before and was set for elimination. He turned the program around and won 266 games during his time in Kingston, which at the time were the most in school history.

Under Leoni, the Rams won the 2004 and 2005 Atlantic 10 regular season championships and the 2005 A-10 conference championship to lead URI to its only NCAA postseason berth in program history. He was named the A-10 Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2004 and the New England Coach of the Year in 2004. He was named to the Rhode Island Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010.

A total of twenty-seven players Leoni has recruited or coached at Rhode Island and William & Mary have been either drafted or signed free agent contracts to play professionally. Six of his former assistants have gone on to successful head coaching careers, including John LaRose at Johnson & Wales, Jim Foster at URI (current assistant at Boston College), Raphael Cerrato at URI ,  Jad Prachniak at the helm of the 2012 Division II National Champions West Chester University, Adam Taylor at Franklin & Marshall and Jaime Pinzino at William & Mary (current assistant at the University of Oklahoma).

Leoni graduated from Rhode Island with a B.S. in accounting in 1990 and earned his master’s degree in Business Administration from URI in 2003. He and his wife Michelle have four children, Ryan (15), Karsen (13), Nathan (13) and Casey (10).



The Shark Tank Presented by Chesca’s Restaurant

Before the Sunday game against the u.s. Military All-Stars, I sat down with Martha’s Vineyard Sharks outfielder Koury Hajjar. Going into his senior year at Boston College, Hajjar looks to become a valuable asset to the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks.

Q. Did you do anything in particular during the offseason to prepare for this season?

A. I actually had an unfortunately injury before prior to this season. I tore my meniscus back in February so I had to have it repaired. The recovery process lasted about a month and was a sped up process. The Sharks were able to get me back out here on the field within three months. Now, it is just a day-to-day process in working to decrease the swelling and get back into it because it’s been a few months since I have played and seen live pitching. It has been a slow process but I feel that I am going in the right direction.

Q. This being your first season with the team, how do you feel about the usage of wooden bats in the FCBL league?

A. I love it. In high school, the league I was in used wooden bats so I am pretty familiar with it. I actually prefer wooden over metal bats. I think it has a better feel than metal does. It has a cleaner feel and gives me a smoother swing at the ball. Some of these players do not have experience with wooden bats so the adjustment for them to get their swing down takes a while, but once they do, you will see the ball being hit all over the field.

Q. Have you noticed any difference in the overall atmosphere between playing for Boston College and the Sharks?

A. On the first day here, at lot of the guys here were quiet. Once a couple of them started talking and introducing themselves to people though, everyone seemed to break out of their shells.  Everyone seems to know someone else from one another college baseball teams and there is a good bond between all of us already. The Sharks games have a lot of kids that come to the games. Boston College gets a lot of kids also, but they tend to be shy. The kids that that come to these games are so energetic and seem to have such a great time. I love kids and I think it’s great for them to come out and see us play. As a team, we’re just trying to go out there and show them a good time.

Q. With the league expanding from four to nine teams, how do you feel about the team’s chances of having a winning season, if not even potentially going for a championship this year?

A. I think we will have better odds this year than we did last year just given the increase in the number of teams in the league. There is a lot more competition and it is much more spread out. There is a lot of traveling that factor into it, which can be a little taxing. Everyone seems to be getting the rest they need though and have been preparing for the games very well. Overall, I believe we can do some damage and have been a pretty solid team so far. It’s still early in the season, but I think in the long haul we will do well.

Q. How do you feel about this game today in having the opportunity to play against members of the military?

A. It is definitely going to be a good experience. We have the chance to play against people who have fought around the world for our country. It is really going to be an honor to do so.

Q. Are you aware of the event, Kids Day at the Park? This day is dedicated for the summer camps on the Vineyard who have free admission to the first early morning game in Sharks history, which starts at 11:00 AM on June 27th? Do you & your teammates look forward to giving the kids a good show?

A. I have heard about it but am not too aware of it. I understand the YMCA, the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, Camp Jabberwocky, Chilmark Community Center and a few other camps will attend. I think this will generate a fantastic atmosphere. We do look to play our best during that game and show the kids a good time. Again, I love kids and enjoy talking and spending time with them. At our game against Brockton, I threw a couple of baseballs with the kids. Overall, it’s about the kids and the fans and the Sharks want them to feel welcome and know that the team is playing for them. I definitely think it will be fun.

Q. Are you looking forward to that evening when the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, the Little and Junior Leagues, and the Sharks will have a joint fundraiser by showing the documentary just released called “Knuckleball?”

A. I heard about it. Sounds like fun as I understand the Sharks will be the “pre-game” show starting at 6:00 PM hanging around and playing with the kids before the movie starts at 8:15. I was told that the movie screen will be located in centerfield and that the fans will be seated on the baseball field in a BYOS that is “bring your own seat.” The pitch is such an aberration and it is simply amazing that guys create long careers based on this one pitch.

By Sean Lenehan, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks