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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).


Interview with Ronnie Rosario of the Sharks

The Shark Tank Presented by Chesca’s Restaurant

Q. Now having an additional season under your belt since playing for the Sharks, how do you feel coming into this season?

A. I feel very comfortable and ready to begin another season with the team. We are very fortunate as players to be part of an organization that brings such a high level of comfort to each and every one of us. After a while it becomes that kind of situation where it’s like riding a bike. I feel as though I have gotten to the point now where I have found my place in the organization and have nothing left to worry about.

Q. Is there a difference in the skill level of the community college in Texas that you used to play for & the team at Fisher College versus that of the Sharks organization?

A. I don’t think there is any difference in the skill level of any of these teams. No matter what collegiate level you are at, you will always have players who have star players and also players who are average. The caliber level of the player is the same wherever you go on the collegiate level. The only difference between these teams that I could think of is the facilities and the schedule given to us. The difference in weather between playing in Texas and on the East Coast is pretty big too!

Q. This summer, you will have a new role on the team as a relief pitcher. What do you think of the transition from catcher/outfielder to pitcher?

A. It is going to be a huge transition. I first got into this sport because of my love for swinging the bat. Being so used to getting the opportunity to go up to bat, it will difficult to get used to not being able to do that this season. I will not let it get to me, though. I am willing to take on the role and do whatever it takes to help the team win. I will put my best foot forward with whatever position the organization asks me to play.

Q. Did you do anything differently during the offseason in order to prepare yourself for this new role on the team?

A. I worked very hard with my college coach to get a good handle on pitching. Being a pitcher now, I have found that I need to run and stretch a lot more than I used to. I have asked a lot of questions and looked for advice from coaches and people who have current or past experience as a relief pitcher. Watching video of players such as Jonathan Broxton has been incredibly helpful for me also. I feel that studying these players allows me to gain a better understanding of the different factors that go into the pitching role.

Q. What are you looking forward to most with the games starting soon?

A. I am really looking forward to reuniting with my Shark family and getting started with another season. I look to get back on track this year and hopefully bring in a championship for the team this year. I loved playing for such loyal fans last year and I really look forward to seeing them in the stands again and giving them a great experience. All in all, I simply want to make the people on the Island happy.

Q. This season, the Sharks will have video for every game, which will be streamed online, as well as have MVTV broadcast a game of the week throughout the season. What is your opinion on how this will work to benefit the team in the long run? Do you plan on taking advantage of utilizing this resource during the season?

A. This feature will definitely benefit the organization in many ways. It will be a great asset on a marketing standpoint. It will get the team’s name on the map outside of the Island. With this, the possibility of developing fans across the country will be incredible. With an increase of the team’s fan base, ticket sales and purchase of merchandise will greatly improve and the success of the young organization will continue to grow. Streaming video of each game will also help the families of players such as mine who live in areas such as the Dominican Republic who will not be able to watch us play otherwise. On a player’s standpoint, it allows us to watch video of our games and critique our performances. It will help us see if there is anything that we may have done wrong during the game that we could improve on or even watch a great play that one of us had. This will even allow us to look back at a play that we may have found amusing or memorable.

Q. Going into your second year living on Martha’s Vineyard, do you have any particular restaurant that you enjoy the most?

A. I actually have not developed a particularly favorite restaurant yet on the island. However, I go to Sharky’s Cantina a lot with the guys and always have a good time there.

Q. Growing up, were there any professional baseball players that you looked up to? Why?

A. Vladimir Guerrero is someone who I have really looked up to throughout my life. He has great enthusiasm for the game and plays the game the right way, too. He also shows kids like me that there is no wrong way to swing the bat. On a pitching standpoint, I will have to go with Pedro Martinez. Pedro is like a bulldog and plays will so much heart and fire that makes it so fun to watch him pitch. He taught me that being passionate about something in life is a great thing.

By Sean Lenehan, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks