McLeod wins ‘Rich Gibson OVAC Baseball Coach of the Year’

STEUBENVILLE – Long-time Times Leader Sports Writer Rich Gibson was a baseball junkie.

No matter if it was the Pirates, Indians, OVBL, American Legion or high school, Gibson simply loved the game.

Gibson passed away last July after less than a year-long battle with cancer, but his memory and love for the game will forever live on thanks to the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference.

The conference officially re-named its baseball coach of the year award as the OVAC Richard “Hoot” Gibson Coach of the Year prior to the start of this season.

The award was presented Monday evening during the annual George Kovalick OVAC All-Star Classic at Vacarro Field, going to Wheeling Park head coach Mike McLeod, who has directed the Patriots to the state baseball tournament this weekend in Charleston.

“This is a great honor,” McLeod said. “Anytime you’re recognized by your peers and fellow competitors, it’s always nice. The OVAC does a lot of great things for our area, our players and kids, so anything that’s a positive in that regard, I am all for.”

McLeod has directed the Patriots to a 19-6 record thus far and they captured the Region I Championship last Friday against Morgantown, 9-6.

Wheeling Park will now take on Riverside in the Class AAA state semifinal.

After receiving plenty of congratulations over the weekend, Park got back to work on Monday morning with a practice and began preparing for Friday’s semifinal.

“We’re excited,” McLeod said. “We got back to the drawing board, the kids were running around and making plays (Monday). We’re still challenging one another because we’re not just happy to being going (to Charleston).

This is the Patriots’ first trip to the state tournament since 1989.

McLeod, who is arguably the best male athlete to ever come out of Wheeling Park, was in middle school the last time Park took part in the state tournament.

“To be able to coach (and have success) at my alma mater makes it even more special,” McLeod said. “You never know where you’re going to end up in life, so I am numb a little bit when I think about it. To go full circle and be back home and coaching at Park is just special to me.”

Park won the OVAC 5A title on Vacarro Field last month by soundly defeating Edison in the title game.

“I consider these types of awards as team things because the job is easy to do when you have kids who can play,” McLeod said. “When you come up with a gameplan, implement it and then have the horses. I think I could have won the Derby if I was riding California Chrome because the horses make it easy. These kids believe in each other.”

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