Sports Spotlight: Sadie Leonard strikes out the competition

Stella Bennett

“[Softball] is a game of failure. No one hits every time. No one only throws strikes. No one ever gets out. I think this leads to a culture of picking each other up when something does not go the right way because something will always not go the right way,” senior Sadie Leonard said. 

Drawn to the game of softball to socialize, play outdoors and wear colorful uniforms, Sadie began playing when she was five years old and has continued as a pitcher for the past 12 years. This dedication has paid off as, according to West Coast Preps, Sadie is currently ranked the fourth-best high school softball player in the Bay Area.

Preparing to pitch the ball, Leonard smiles and scopes out her competition. (Photo courtesy of Greg Jungferman)

Additionally, Sadie has been involved in many other sports and activities throughout her life, like basketball and theater. However, with her increasing talent for softball, she decided to drop many of these extracurriculars.  

“I wanted to do everything, [but] as I got older I had to stop doing some [activities,] so I could continue pursuing [softball] at a high intensity,” Sadie said. “Softball was just something that I [had to] have in my life.” 

Between softball practices, Sadie began the recruitment process. While she started talking to coaches freshman year, she faced challenges with COVID-19, which halted her games and limited in-person meetings. Yet, she also learned to value softball more than ever during this time. 

“During the pandemic, when I was forced to take time away from softball, I realized how much I loved it and how important [softball was] in my life,” Sadie said. “Because I formed relationships [with college coaches] online [due to COVID-19,] coaches were able to see whether or not I would be a good fit in-person pretty quickly [once restrictions lightened.]”

Sadie’s coaches and teammates alike notice her positive outlook. Katie Connors, a close teammate and fellow senior, praises Sadie for her optimistic encouragement and uplifting attitude. 

“Sadie has always been a positive role model for everyone, no matter her age,” Connors said. “She works super hard and is always determined to do her best. She is one of the most positive people on the field, always talking, cheering people on or cheering people up if they are having a hard time.”

To pass on her love for softball, Sadie began coaching younger kids ages six to twelve, taking on the role of a leader and mentor to aspiring athletes. 

During her younger years, Leonard winds up her pitch aiming to throw a strike. (Photo courtesy of Rob Leonard)

“I had a lot of older pitchers mentor me when I was younger, and it was really cool to get their wisdom, to learn the mechanics of pitching and to have them as role models,” Sadie said. “I have always loved working with kids. I want to be a teacher when I am older, so it is [always] really rewarding to watch kids learn and develop [while] being able to support them through that process.”

After playing on the girls’ varsity softball team for four years, Sadie looks forward to her next journey: playing for Williams College, a Division III (D-III) liberal arts school in Massachusetts, this upcoming fall. 

Sadie’s mom, Naomi Leonard, coached her for five years, which allowed them to spend more time together and helped spur her long-time passion for the sport. Now, Naomi will see her daughter off to college, entering a program she believes will be an excellent fit for Sadie. 

“Sadie settled on wanting a D-III program. She wanted to be able to compete at a high level, but she also wanted a more balanced college experience and a strong academic program,” Naomi said. “For me, when I saw [Williams College] on paper, I was like, ‘That seems so perfect for her,’” Naomi said.

Leonard stands focused and driven to hit the ball, getting into position to swing. (Photo courtesy of Greg Jungferman)

While college may be in the near future, Sadie is busy with the beginning of Redwood’s 2022 spring softball season. So far, Sadie has led the team as a co-captain in a seven-win, three-loss season and believes the team has great potential. 

“We have a really strong program and work really well together. I think there is a lot of good competition this year, but I am really excited, and I think we definitely have the skill to do well,” Sadie said. 

Twelve years into playing softball, Sadie still has a whole future ahead of her in this game. Sports are often a way for students to make friends or get in some necessary exercise; however, Naomi reflects upon Sadie’s experience as not solely about the sport but also a learning experience.  

“I think of this whole thing as a journey for [Sadie,] and not one that’s leading her toward some endpoint,” Naomi said. “The learning she is getting along the way [which requires responsibility and leadership] is so beneficial to her, both the success and the failures are going to help her in life.”