Baseball 'our bond forever' for Leylands

Low-A Kannapolis bench coach cites father, Jim, and La Russa as influences

June 19th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Patrick Leyland can’t remember the exact year or his age at the time, but the following depiction rates as one of many great memories formed over time with his dad, Jim.

He’ll never forget the particular moment spent at Comerica Park while Jim was managing the Tigers from 2006-13. Let’s call it a Major League sleepover.

“I was in high school and it was in the middle of the summer, and I think he slept in his office and I slept in the conference room next to his office for four nights,” said Patrick with a laugh. “We just hung out. Just spent a bunch of time together. Talked a lot of baseball and about a lot of other things in general.

“Nobody else in the world would know that. It’s more the time you get to spend with that person. He obviously means the world to me. Stuff like that you never forget.”

The elder Leyland, who is 76, currently works for the Tigers after managing the Pirates for 11 years, the Marlins for two, the Rockies for one and Detroit for eight. He finished his managerial career with 1,769 victories, good for 17th place all time, along with three pennants and a World Series title.

Patrick, who turns 30 on Oct. 11, serves as bench coach for the White Sox Low-A Kannapolis affiliate. He was drafted by the Tigers in the eighth round of the 2010 MLB Draft, but after parts of six Minor League seasons, he followed the same path to the dugout carved out by his father.

“I’m a proud son. There’s no question about that,” Patrick said. “I was right there for much of his career, especially when he got to Detroit, and I was old enough to really be engaged with it. I’m just proud of the person that he was, how he treated his players. One thing about him that I’m as proud of -- or more than anything -- is his realness. He’s as genuine as it gets, and that goes a long way.”

“He’s a great kid,” said Jim, mentioning the degree in business management from the University of Phoenix his son worked to achieve. “I give him a lot of credit. He’s a smart kid. He’s quite a bit smarter than his dad, to be honest with you.”

The Leyland father and son combo talk every day, sometimes before and after games, and Jim has been out to Kannapolis to see Patrick in action, as well as other venues where he previously coached. The recent Kannapolis visit, with his wife and Patrick’s mother, Katie, did not involve staying overnight in the clubhouse like that special Detroit memory.

“If he wants to talk about [baseball], I talk about it with him. But I don’t push it on him. I want him to be himself,” Jim said. “I’m a dad, but he’s a pretty smart young baseball guy.”

White Sox manager Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland have been close friends for decades, with the two still talking frequently and providing honest takes for each other. That friendship has given La Russa the chance to know Patrick since he was a child. 

“He’s going to manage in the Major Leagues,” said La Russa of the younger Leyland. “Whenever I have been around Pat since he was growing up, he’s got the same love of the game.

“Actually, he’s got the same love and he’s got an independent thinking. We’ve had conversations where he and Jim have disagreed, and they call me to ask my opinion.”

When La Russa passed John McGraw for second place on the all-time manager’s victory list, Patrick called him that night to offer congratulations. He’s thrilled La Russa returned to managing at age 76, and is equally thrilled that opportunity came with the White Sox.

After doing an initial interview concerning the Leylands, La Russa briefly returned to point out Patrick not only knows baseball, but asks the right questions. In La Russa and Jim, Patrick had the chance to learn from two of the best. But that family bond supersedes baseball.

“My dad is my dad, right? So we are talking all the time,” Patrick said. “That’s been kind of our bond forever. We both love the game, so I just grew up around it and wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, and that usually meant being at the ballpark.

“In that sense, it was learning the game as I was growing up. Tony has been so open with me about just sharing his insights and knowledge and wisdom and experiences. We talk a decent amount, and he always picks up the phone and he always calls you back. It’s been a really impactful relationship for me. I just try to learn as much as I possibly can from those guys.”