The most interesting man in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League does not do beer commercials. He’s one of the top starting pitchers for the Westhampton Aviators and his name is Kyle Raleigh.
Raleigh is a 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound left-handed pitcher out of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He hails from Cincinnati, where his parents have been in the limelight for quite some time. After being a television meteorologist in the San Francisco area for quite some time, Raleigh’s father, Steve, took a job in Cincinnati and moved his family there during Raleigh’s freshman year in high school. Mr. Raleigh is now the chief meteorologist for WCPO. It was also in Cincinnati where Raleigh’s mother, Julie, became a Ben-Gal, a cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I was very fortunate in life growing up with my parents,” Raleigh said. “Being with my dad, I was able to watch batting practice live on the field and meet all the players.
“But being in the public eye, I also had to be smarter than the next guy,” he added. “The worst thing that could have happened was seeing ‘Steve Raleigh’s son gets arrested’ on the news.”
Another reason why he avoided getting in trouble was because his grandfather, Simon Leis Jr., was the sheriff of Hamilton County, which encompasses the Cincinnati area. Mr. Leis Jr. retired back on January 1 and was also a judge before becoming a sheriff. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the district attorney who prosecuted Larry Flynt in 1977 and won, although the decision was later overturned in appellate court. Flynt was the publisher of Hustler Magazine and faced obscenity charges for the graphic nature of his magazines at the time.
“I’ve been around the public eye so I know how act and behave,” Raleigh said. “There was a learning curve when I was little but it ended up being all right. I got little perks out of it.
“My parents are great. They’re the best people I know,” he continued. “My dad was just a middle-class guy growing up and always wanted more out of life. He went for it and made it.”
Raleigh seems to have his father’s drive. Months before arriving on the East End, he set up a number of interviews and sent out his resume to a ton of local businesses for a part-time job. After arriving late from Ball State on his first night in Westhampton, Raleigh got up bright and early, all decked out in a suit, to go on interviews.
“I was talking to my dad and I just wanted to get out of his pocket,” Raleigh explained about why getting a part-time job was so important. “I didn’t want to get him to pay for my entire summer. I’m out here to play baseball so he shouldn’t have had to pay for that.”
Raleigh is staying with Westhampton Aviators general manager Henry Bramwell. When Bramwell woke up and saw Raleigh up in a suit he couldn’t believe it. But sure enough, Raleigh landed a job with Westhampton True Value at 133 Montauk Highway in Westhampton Beach.
“He’s just a real Midwestern kind of guy. Very respectful and always very appreciative,” Bramwell said. “The other day after dinner he goes, ‘Did I thank you for making dinner tonight?’ Always very considerate and we really enjoy having him around.”
True Value owner Ted Jankowski couldn’t be happier after hiring Raleigh as an employee. He thought he was doing a favor for the Aviators by having him come down and apply for the job, but after meeting him and seeing him work, he realized it was more than just a favor. Jankowski calls Raleigh “Aces,” not only for being the top starting pitcher on the Aviators but also for just being great in general.
“He impressed me right from the beginning, with the jacket and tie on,” Jankowski said. “He’s just a really nice, good kid. You can tell he’s got that Midwest attitude about him, a good-natured attitude.
“He’s Aces,” he added. “He’s here on time, has a great work ethic. It’s been a win-win situation. I thought I was doing him a favor. Turns out he’s been helping me out by doing a great job.”
Since Raleigh, 23, is technically a fifth-year senior—having redshirted his junior year because of shoulder surgery—this summer is Raleigh’s first and last in the HCBL.
“I am going to miss him,” Jankowski said. “I hope to stay in touch with him. He’s set the bar pretty bar high. If I’m going to hire more Aviators in the future they have a lot to live up to.” As far as Raleigh’s baseball skills are concerned, he’s proved himself among some of the best collegiate baseball players from around the country. He was named to the South Fork All-Star team, which played on Saturday night, after going 2-2 in the first half of the summer with a 3.21 ERA. He’s struck out 24 in 28 innings pitched.
Westhampton manager Lou Bernardi, who was the team’s pitching coach before being promoted a few weeks ago, said Raleigh has taken on a leadership role within the past couple of weeks.
“With him being a fifth-year senior, it’s like having another manager out there, and he’s setting an example for the other guys on how to act on and off the field,” he said. “He’s logged in a ton of innings over his career and I truly believe he’s an asset to any pitching staff. He wants the ball every fifth day. He’s a tremendous competitor.”
Raleigh earned his bachelor’s degree in communications and will start going for his master’s in political science at Ball State this fall. He plans on following in his grandfather’s footsteps of pursuing a law degree at some point, but that’s if the whole baseball thing doesn’t pan out. But by all accounts he could get to the majors at any point.
“Obviously, if I had the opportunity to play baseball professionally after this season, I’d give it a shot,” Raleigh said. “I still love baseball and don’t want to give it up yet. If it doesn’t work out, though, I have a backup plan.”