There are several baseball/softball dynasties in Tucson like the Rosthenhausler, Moraga and Palomarez families and the Leon/Bejarano connection is right there. Starting with legendary Tucson High and Arizona standout Eddie Leon, current Badger Mario Bejarano hopes to keep that legacy alive.
AllSportsTucson met the younger Bejarano in the summer of 2017. As a 13-year-old, Bejarano took part in the USA Baseball National Training Identification Series in North Carolina and he was one of the rising stars in Little League circles. He threw a no-hitter in North Carolina and he earned another invitation in 2018.
As an incoming freshman, Bejarano was instrumental in Tucson Firebirds Post 7 advancing in American Legion action in Colorado (seven innings, giving up one hit while collecting six strikeouts to send the team to the semifinals). Now a junior, Bejarano led the Badgers with a .591 batting average last spring with 11 RBI, three doubles and a triple. He was also 1-0 on the mound to help lead the Badgers to a 6-1 record before the season was cut short.
His recruiting is about to get intense and, like any top athlete from Southern Arizona, a look from local powers Arizona and Pima should be coming or Bejarano will be another top talent that “get away.” That would be unfortunate.
His cousin Eddie Leon probably needs no introduction as the first top ten drafted player from Tucson but there’s more. His aunt, Tina Leon, helped lead Tucson High to its first softball playoff berth in 1982. His mother, Hilda Leon Bejarano, taught Tina how to pitch.
His great uncle, former Cholla standout Tommy Leon, played for Pima and the University of Arizona at a time when several local standouts played for the Wildcats including Todd Brown (Sabino), Chris Haggard (Sabino), Richard Lemmons (Santa Rita), Robbie Moen (Flowing Wells), Willie Morales (Tucson), Bob O’Donnell (CDO), Carlos Rico (Cholla) and David Tundel (Santa Rita).
The current Wildcat roster sports two local standouts in former Tucson High standout George Arias Jr. and former Nogales standout German Fajardo.
Amazingly, Tommy Leon only struck out three times in 72 at-bats in his senior year at Cholla and he finished with a .583 batting average.
Mario Bejarano’s paternal grandmother, Carmen Navarro Bejarano, was part of the legendary Oury Park Rose softball club and her likeness is up on the incredible mosaic mural at the park. Carmen is the woman in the middle on the mural.
His uncle, Mike Bejarano, coached Sabino to a state baseball title in 1997 and his deceased uncle, Phillip Bejarano, pitched on Tucson’s back-to-back state championship teams in 1987 and 1988.
His father, Marcos Bejarano, was a pitcher and slugger at Tucson High. Marcos once went 2-for-2 with a grand slam, double and five RBI to defeat his older brothers in 1992 when Phillip was assisting Mike at Sabino. Oh, and he also struck out six batters in the 12-4 victory. Marcos played for Arizona Western.
Q & A WITH MARIO BEJARANO
Q: How has your training and competition been going this past year with COVID and spring season cancelled?
A: My training has been centered around my individual work more than it has in the past. I go running a lot more, I have been training more on my pitching side of the game. But I also have been hitting a lot and working out. Also, COVID has really affected the game a lot more and the recruiting side has been greatly affected by it. Lastly, the sprint season was unfortunate because I was putting up good numbers and I felt like the team was finding it’s place and starting to come together.
What kind of college interest have you had yet and what are your dream schools?
I like only a handful of colleges because I want to be at a college that makes me feel like home and I want to surround myself with players and coaches who have the same goals and I can be true self with on and off the field. Some of my dreams are Arizona, ASU, San Diego State, Cal State Fullerton, Duke, GCU and many others.
What other sports did you play growing up and who were some of your youth coaches?
Growing up I played a lot of sports and they were baseball, soccer and basketball. My youth coaches for baseball were Ron Figueroa, Josue Ortiz, Dominic Robinson, Mike Adams and Georgie Arias. For soccer it was Ray Bussari and for basketball it was Mario Ybarra.
Tell me how you see Tucson High this year, the chemistry and how well do you think you will do?
I see Tucson High this year as being very strong minded and competitive team. I see this because a lot of players on our program play together on Tucson Champs club team with George Arias. Coach George has studied a lot throughout past summers and throughout high school ball, so he has put a lot of input by showing us the game at a different perspective by becoming strong minded and staying relaxed when the games becomes faster paced. So I feel like a lot of our players and I will transition that to our high school team to become better as one whole. Lastly, I feel we will have a strong year and make it to playoffs and farther because a lot of us are growing, becoming bigger, stronger, and smarter.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org