Scouts crowded behind the backstop during Delbarton’s Morris County Tournament final against West Morris last month. As senior right-hander Jack Leiter pitched a perfect game two outs into the seventh inning, radar guns fired and cameras clicked. Afterward, senior shortstop Anthony Volpe, joked about who all the extra professional fans were there to see.
“Probably him, but I’m not complaining,” Volpe chuckled.
Leiter and Volpe have gone through all the hype together. They both earned gold medals with the United States under-18 national team at the Pan-American Championships in December. Both committed to Vanderbilt University.
They graduated from Delbarton together on Sunday afternoon.
And both could be first-round picks in the Major League Baseball draft Monday night.
Leiter is listed as No. 33 and Volpe No. 63 on MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Watch. FanGraphs has Volpe at No. 27 and Leiter 39th. Both are also on Baseball America’s top 100 list.
That means a hefty signing bonus for either Green Wave player. The big dollars, plus both boys’ commitment to college ball, might scare Major League teams away.
“They’re extremely mature and humble,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “They haven’t let all this attention they’re receiving be a distraction to us. They come to work every day and they both deserve to get drafted Monday. We’re going to sit anxiously and patiently.”
Leiter is 8-0 with a 0.54 earned-run average for Delbarton (25-3), which has earned a rematch with St. Augustine in the NJSIAA Non-Public A final Wednesday. He has struck out 88 and walked 19 in 52.1 innings.
Volpe is batting .500, with four doubles, six triples, 11 home runs – including the game-winning solo shot in the MCT final – 33 RBI and 36 runs scored. A rare freshman on the Green Wave varsity, Volpe has a .486 career average.
“He’s the best shortstop in the country, defensively,” Leiter said of Volpe, who scored both runs in Delbarton’s MCT final. “I know personally, from facing him over the summer, he’s the hardest out to get in the country. It doesn’t really get any better than him, having him behind you. Every time I reset, he’s always there, ‘Get ahead, get ahead, attack the next guy.’ He’s helpful mentally, helpful confidence-wise knowing my shortstop is going to make all those plays.”
“The summer circuit” prepared Leiter for the additional attention, and he insists he has the same mentality as “throwing a bullpen in my backyard with only my dad watching.”
Al Leiter has been a constant presence at Delbarton games, charting pitches so father and son can break down the performance. The elder Leiter is still a front-office advisor for the Mets, but stepped away from his job as a YES Network analyst so he could be present for his son.
Baseball is the Leiter family business.
Al Leiter, a left-hander, threw back-to-back no hitters during his senior season at Central Regional in Bayville. He was drafted out of high school, going to the Yankees in the second round. Three years later, at age 21, he was in the majors and went on to a 19-year career with four different ball clubs – winning three World Series and pitching in two All-Star Games. Mark Leiter, Al’s brother, pitched for 11 major-league seasons – and his son, Mark Leiter Jr., is currently pitching for Toronto. Another brother, Kurt Leiter, reached as high as Double-A with Baltimore.
Lori Leiter, Al’s wife and mom to Jack and his three sisters, Lindsay, Carly and Katelyn, said it’s difficult to find a childhood photo of her son where he wasn’t holding a baseball glove. Clearly, he had “the passion for it,” and has put in years of work to have these opportunities.
Yet both Leiter and Volpe stressed the importance of sharing a NJSIAA title with their teammates, of being present for Delbarton.
The rest of their baseball careers can wait a little longer.
“I know what he brings to the table,” Volpe said of Leiter. “He’s done it in a gold-medal game against Panama to win a gold medal. He did it last year as an underclassman in the state championship. I have no fear whatsoever that he’s going to come through.”