This post has little to do with the Nationals besides the baseball connection but I will bet there are many in the Nationals organization who will recognize the name.
Leonard Alley, the longtime scorer for the Richmond Braves and International League, died Sunday night at 60. Leonard was going to be the scorer for the new Richmond Flying Squirrels, who play their home opener this week. Having a new team in town - and a team he could score for - had Leonard excited like the proverbial kid at Christmas.
Leonard was my friend for a long, long time. I met him when I was a freshman at VCU and I don't think I attended a dozen sporting events in Richmond in the ensuing years that Leonard didn't attend in some capacity. He helped out The Associated Press in town and was part of more stat crews than you could count. He was a stereotypical stats geek and I mean that in the best way possible.
If Leonard said, "Richmond has missed 17 of its last 18 shots" you didn't have to check. Richmond had missed 17 of its last 18. If I said in an offhand way, "Wow, this kid has been on fire," Leonard would instantly come back with "12 points in the last 2:02" and you didn't have to check. It was 12 points in the last 2:02.
The obituary in my old paper mentions he scored 750 straight games. Unreal.
He scored games firmly but fairly. He changed a few calls over the years. Not many. "There's a reason there's a rule and we'll go by it," was one of his favorite phrases.
Leonard took his work very seriously but didn't take himself seriously at all, which added to the fun. He could give and he could take and we laughed a lot.
One basketball game a dozen years ago led to what became a standard greeting between us. VCU was playing Liberty and a VCU freshman named Shawn Hampton was on the foul line late in the first half, shooting for his 20th point.
"I don't think VCU has ever had a freshman get 20 in a half," Leonard said.
"Half" was fresh out of his mouth when Hampton clanged the shot. Badly. I shot Leonard a look and said, "Look what you've done!" I'm not sure Hampton ever got his 20th that night. I know it took him about 10 games to score another 19 points total. After Hampton's fifth or sixth straight game with zero, one or two points, Leonard said, "I'm really starting to feel bad about this."
Pretty much every time I saw him after that, I'd greet him as either Leonardo or Leapin' and say, "Hey, Shawn Hampton is looking for you." And he'd come back with, "That's OK. If he takes a swing at me, I'm pretty sure he'll miss."
Rest in peace, my friend.