Monday’s Eye on the Ball radio show on KVOI (1030-AM) with co-hosts Jay Gonzales and Steve Rivera featured Tucson legendary baseball figure Eddie Leon and Arizona Daily Star’s Arizona football and baseball beat writer Michael Lev.
Former Cienega standout Nick Gonzales has been in the news recently because he is projected to be in the top five picks of the MLB draft this summer.
Leon, a former Tucson High and Arizona All-American infielder, holds the distinction locally of being drafted within the first two rounds of the MLB draft three separate times. He was selected in the first round by the Minnesota Twins in 1965 in the MLB’s first draft in history and the Chicago Cubs in 1966. He signed with the Indians in 1967 after his senior year with the Wildcats after they drafted him in the second round.
“I was glad, one, because it was the Indians, and two, because they were not very strong up the middle, and I knew if I did anything at all I was going to be in the big leagues fairly quickly,” Leon said. “I only spent about a year in Triple-A ball and I was in the big leagues the following year.”
Leon, an All-American at Arizona three consecutive years, played professional baseball for more than 11 years, eight years in the major leagues. He played five seasons with Cleveland, two years with the Chicago White Sox and finished his career in 1975 with a brief appearance with the New York Yankees.
He told Gonzales and Rivera he lives in the same subdivision in Tucson as former Arizona All-American Terry Francona, now the manager of the Indians, and former teammate Mike Paul. who played with Leon at Arizona and with the Indians.
“The three of us have been walking in the morning for a couple of miles up and down the roads here in our subdivision just to get some exercise,” said Leon, who is 73. “We reminisce a lot about baseball. We go all the way back when we played in college, when Terry played in college, and we talk all of his World Series and a bunch of baseball.
“He keeps us up to date as to what’s happening with baseball today. He’s been telling us that he thinks it’s going to happen sometime in the first week of July that they are going to open up the season.”
Lev talked about his observations of Arizona’s baseball and football programs earlier in the spring before the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to both operations.
“I think they would have been a tournament team this year, which would have been their first berth since the 2017 season,” Lev said of the baseball team. “Unfortunately, we’ll never get to find out. As far as next year goes, (coach) Jay (Johnson) really likes this next recruiting class.
“I think he’s going to end up landing a lot more of those guys than he might have in a normal year because the MLB draft is going to be reduced from 40 rounds to five. A lot of those kind of in-between guys aren’t going to be picked and they are going to end up going to school.”
Baseball America ranks Arizona No. 13 nationally going into next season.
In terms of Kevin Sumlin’s football program, Lev discussed the uncertainty of the program with spring practice cut short.
“When I talked to Kevin Sumlin a few weeks ago, he was pretty optimistic that they were going to be okay,” Lev said. “He felt like the fact that they got four practices in put them in a better position than some other schools, which got none in before the shut down happened.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.