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Leverett guides Harlem to top in softball

Posted: October 11, 2011 - 9:11pm
Harlem High School softball coach Mike Leverett reached his 100th win earlier this season.  Jim Blaylock / Staff
Jim Blaylock / Staff
Harlem High School softball coach Mike Leverett reached his 100th win earlier this season.

When Mike Leverett's softball team defeated Greater Atlanta Christian at a midseason tournament, the Harlem High School coach got a post-game dousing when his players dumped a water bucket on his head.

Leverett thought it was because the opponent was ranked No. 2 in Class AA.

Instead, what he didn't realize is that it was his 100th win in just his fifth season as the school's head coach.

"‘It's just a game, y'all,'" Leverett remembers telling his team.

"‘Yeah, but it's your 100th win!'" the players countered.

"It's not a real big deal to me," the coach said. "I don't even think about it."

Still, Leverett admits to checking his team's records to make sure the math was correct.

Leverett, who has served as the school's public safety officer for about 10 years, wasn't convinced until he started doing the math. He realized that it was, indeed, his 100th win.

It included a school record 27 wins in 2007, his first season at the helm, followed by win totals of 17, 16, 24 last season and 25 thus far in 2011.

This year's squad has a chance to break the mark of 27 wins if it can produce three wins in the state playoffs, which start today. The Bulldogs are at Eastside for their first-round series.

Greg Aplin has helped Leverett build the Harlem program.

Today, the school's softball field looks more like a college facility than a high school one. That wasn't the case when the pair started.

"When Mike took over, we basically had a PE/recreation field with a cow pasture for an outfield," Aplin said.

"It's been a very big deal for him to establish the program and to make sure that the facilities matched the effort the kids were putting in," he added. "When you see your coach and the community putting in the effort, it really does motivate you to give it all you've got."

The work upgrading the facilities was extensive. But, piece-by-piece, everything came together.

Most recently, a new scoring tower, funded by the school system's 1-percent sales tax, has been added to the softball and baseball fields at Harlem.

It was the finishing touch for a slew of changes that also included adding a new indoor hitting/pitching facility, which was fully funded by the community and the school's booster club.

Aplin said Leverett represents the community.

"Mike is a family man first," he said. "The community of Harlem is an extension of his family. As a friend of him myself, I know that Mike would give you the shirt off his back. That's just him."

His players agree.

"As a person, he helps us all," senior pitcher Kristen Mills said. "He teaches us the game of softball, but he also instills morals in us. ... He's just a really good leader and role model for us."

Prior to coaching at Harlem, Leverett started the Georgia Rockers travel softball organization. It's widely considered the preeminent developmental travel team in the area.

It would have been a conflict of interest to coach both, so he gave up control of that program when he came on with the Bulldogs.

He said he's enjoyed the school side of things.

"You can teach more in high school ball," Leverett stressed. "The reason why is because you've got five or six days you can practice in a week, where travel ball is two or three times a week, maybe."

Senior Hadley Beggs said that there has been a transformation of the program under Leverett's watch.

"The girls just work hard," the third baseman said. "My freshman year, I'm not going to say I didn't work hard. But now, as a senior, just knowing what he's been through for us, it just gives me the drive to do my best for him and for the program."

Junior left fielder Hannah Price attributes much of her success to Leverett's approach to the game..

"The one thing I think he's taught me is to always just get out there and do my best," she said. "He says not to get down if you make an error or do something bad. Just always have confidence in the next play and to do your best the next time."

 

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