Fordham Tabs Kevin Leighton to Manage Baseball Team

Head baseball coach Kevin Leighton looks to continue Fordham’s  winning tradition. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports )

Head baseball coach Kevin Leighton looks to continue Fordham’s winning tradition. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports )


After having a respectable 31-23-1 record last season, Fordham University hired head baseball coach Kevin Leighton to take the reins and build on the team’s recent success. Leighton will have a prominent tradition to defend, because with  4,074 all-time victories, Fordham’s baseball team is the oldest and winningest baseball program in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Head baseball coach Kevin Leighton looks to continue Fordham’s winning tradition. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports )

Before joining Fordham, Leighton spent the last six years as head baseball coach of the Manhattan Jaspers, where he won more than 30 games every season he was there, as well as leading Manhattan to its second Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MACC) championship and its second appearance in the NCAA tournament.

When asked to sign with Fordham at the end of last season, Leighton said it was a deal he could never pass up. “We used to come here and drool over the lights, campus and everything else. It’s a very attractive place. The support here is tremendous, the facilities are tremendous and along with the emphasis on academic excellence, the location is ideal. This is the perfect fit for me.”

To Leighton, academic success and how the team carries itself off the field are just as important as its success on the field. From 2006 to 2011, 49 of Leighton’s players earned MAAC All-Academic status  and in 2008, the Manhattan baseball program was honored with an NCAA Public Recognition Award for ranking in the top 10 percent of all Division I baseball programs in the multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) report.

Leighton also pushed his players to be stars on the field. During his tenure four of his players were named MAAC Pitcher of the Year, two were MAAC Rookie of the Year recipients, and one was selected MAAC Player of the Year. Moreover, two Jaspers received All-America honors and seven players were named Louisville Slugger Freshman All-Americans.  “I want our guys to work as hard as possible and to play as hard as possible and it shows,” Leighton said.

This “work hard-play hard” mentality, along with an aggressive style of play, has led to great success for Leighton and his teams, as 11 players Leighton has coached have advanced to the professional ranks, with four currently playing within a MLB organization. Additionally, Leighton is the third winningest baseball coach in Manhattan history going 200-119-1, a winning percentage of 62.5.

2008 and 2009 were record-breaking years for Leighton and the Jaspers. They won back-to-back regular-season championships and Leighton was named MAAC Coach of the Year in 2009 after Manhattan tallied a program record 35 wins with an overpowering offense. The Jaspers finished fifth in NCAA Division I and set a MAAC record with a .349 team batting average. Manhattan also set  MAAC records in hits (657) and doubles (130) in 2009.

Leighton hopes to recreate the offensive success he found at Manhattan with the Rams, and he looks to do that by playing aggressive.  “I like to steal bases and hit and run,” Leighton said. “In any sport you want to put pressure on the opponent any way you can and base stealing is a great way to do that.”

Leighton is very excited to manage the Rams next season, although there are some qualities that he wants to see improved. “I want to see a difference in the culture. I want to show these guys that winning on a consistent basis is important. I want them to have a mentality that [college] is the most important time in their lives that they never get back and they should spend it finding achievement in everything they do.”

Leighton’s first game as head baseball coach won’t be until February, but it is clear that he is ready for the task and determined to guide the Rams to a championship season. Last year, Fordham had a winning season, but with Leighton at the helm the Rams are poised for an even better 2012 campaign.