If there was an award for the biggest heart on the field, Jordan Leopold would surely take that honor.
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, Leopold has been a sports – and baseball – fanatic since birth. As a New York Met fan, he grew up attending games at Citi Field with his father. His early awareness of the game foreshadowed his eventual love for all things pitching.
“Had it not been for my family’s love for baseball, I may not have been exposed to the game at a young age,” says Leopold.
“I even took a photo with a bat in my hands when I was only a few months old.”
As Leopold grew older, he began to play baseball more competitively.
The left-handed pitcher put together a solid career for River Dell High School’s varsity baseball team. Despite enjoying the sport and achieving success on the diamond, he did not intend to pursue baseball at the collegiate level.
“Although I never attended Perfect Game [or other showcases], it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to play college baseball,” says Leopold.
“I didn’t want my baseball career to end after high school and I secretly knew that I would eventually try out for the team.”
Ultimately, he decided to major in Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts college in Allentown, Pa. Following graduation, he plans to pursue a professional career in sports media.
Leopold, who graduates from college this May, hopes this is the year he throws his first regular season pitch for the Mules.
“The toughest part of being cut was the fact that I have been there before,” says Leopold on not making the roster in either of his first two years at college.
“Being cut is probably the worst feeling in the entire world for me. Somebody tells you that you’re not good enough to do the thing you love. Something that you’ve done your entire life. Being cut forces you into a reality check and then you begin to question who you are and what you have experienced in the past.”
Rejection often comes with pain and embarrassment. Being told that you are not cut out for something you’ve worked your whole life for is an awful feeling.
But Leopold has turned this into greater motivation to reach his goals.
He is a regular at the gym, completing rigorous workouts and throwing sessions almost seven days a week. During the pandemic, he built a home gym in his garage to stay in shape, biding time before his next opportunity.
“There will always be days where you don’t want to train,” says Leopold.
“There will be days where training will be more difficult than usual – maybe the body is fatigued. Remembering why I train and how far I have come is a constant reminder to keep going, even on the toughest days.”
Throughout Leopold’s life, facing adversity has allowed him to adjust to new situations and make the best of subsequent opportunities. He dreamed of wearing his beloved #5 jersey during his sophomore season.
He later received word that yet again he did not make the roster.
So how did someone who is a baseball lifer pass the time away from the game he loved?
On a whim, he picked up a javelin and joined the college’s track and field team.
“I was definitely nervous throwing a javelin for the first time,” says Leopold. “The most challenging part was competing with others who have been doing the event for years. While I knew I had the arm strength to throw javelin, it was tough to learn. I was not very good.”
In April 2019, he achieved a personal best throw of 35.25 meters at Lehigh University’s Carol & John Covert Classic.
Not bad for someone who had picked up a javelin for the first time ever just one month earlier.
The Muhlenberg baseball team announced in January 2021 that their upcoming spring season would be played. With most students returning to campus this semester, the uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still casts a shadow over the season.
Has this deterred Leopold from all the progress he had made up to this point?
Nope. He’s just become more driven to be the best he can be.
“My goal is to be the best version of myself,” he says. I want to do anything I can to help the team win the [Centennial] Conference and make the NCAA Tournament…For four years, people doubted me; it took three years to make the team.”
Driving home as snow began to cover the streets, Leopold was ecstatic about the bullpen he just threw.
“The last time that coach saw me pitch [last February], I was topping out at 76 [on the radar gun],” he says, looking back on where he was as a pitcher at this time last year.
“Now I’m reaching 81-82. I feel great.”
In an ideal world, the Division 3 baseball season will start on time. Leopold will pitch meaningful baseball games for Muhlenberg. The team will make a deep postseason run.
But Leopold’s journey is a tale of more than just boxscore statistics.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something,” he says. “Pick out a specific goal and work on that goal. Some things may be out of your control, but you can always control the amount of effort that you put in.”
“As an athlete, I know that there are others more talented than me. There is absolutely no excuse for there to be another athlete that works harder than me. Control what you can control and trust the process”
No matter what happens on the baseball field this spring, Jordan Leopold has so much to be proud of.
As a ballplayer, as a student, and as a person. His tenacious work ethic is an inspiration to anyone who has fallen and struggled to find the strength to get back up.
Despite graduation soon approaching, his journey of getting better each and every day is far from complete. He sums this up perfectly.
“Results are slow and gradual, but with consistent and smart training, they will come.”