What’s going on everyone, my name is Brennan Leitao and I’m a starting pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals Organization. Throughout the course of my life, baseball has not only been my passion, but it has led me to my best friends, my mentors, and my purpose. It’s also shown me some of the coolest places in the world. Baseball has led me to places I never expected to see, from the Eiffel Tower to Seattle’s Space Needle and hundreds of small towns and backroads in between- home of MiLB baseball.
I grew up in Southern California and spent my first 18 years in the bubble we home grown kids call “The Vine”. Good ol’ Irvine, CA. After graduating from Woodbridge High School in 2011, I ventured away from home and accepted a baseball scholarship to be a Hornet at Sacramento State.
Traveling up and down Pacific Coast Highway in my White 1989 Ford Bronco was and always will be my preferred route to my hometown down south. Traveling (away from baseball) is something that I didn’t have an opportunity of doing earlier in my life, but I think I’ve done a fair job of making up for lost time. Sports have always been the primary focus for me and there weren’t many “off” weekends in Southern California. Weekends were for baseball and football, no questions asked. The only time we traveled was for baseball- Dreams Parks, USSSA Tourney’s, Cooperstown, etc.
When I got to Sac State, I had an incredible opportunity as a freshman. I was named a weekend starter and finished the year throwing just shy of 100 innings. The summer following that season is where this travel bug started. Rather than shipping out for summer ball I was guided to take the summer off to “shut down.” I hit the weight room to become more of a physical presence on the mound. The velo pouch got a little out of hand in 2012 and needed some serious trimming (and by a little, I mean a lot). My Sac State jersey was looking a little sloppy.
After losing in devastating fashion to Fresno State in our conference title game, I took the scenic route down Pacific Coast Highway back to Mom and Dad in Irvine. Seeing the coastline and all the beach cities from Santa Cruz to Newport Beach got me fired up to be back in my hometown. I had a summer of surf, adventures and workouts ahead of me.
My first stop was seeing my trainer in Southern California, Josh Reidt. Josh and I put together a 3-month plan that would help me get back in shape as well as allow me to come in early for my workouts giving me the rest of the day to do anything active. Josh transformed my body and helped me tack on 5 mph to my fastball that summer. That summer opened my eyes to what else was out there. For the first time in my life I truly had the summer off. I’ll be honest, I loved it. I got wise real quick and I figured if I came out my sophomore year and threw another 100 innings I would be sure to get shut down and have another opportunity to workout and adventure in SoCal.
That next year I threw 120 innings and was back in sunny Southern California getting my mind and body ready for my junior campaign. After my second summer of college I really noticed a difference in my body and saw some big jumps in the weight room. My body was being pushed to its limits in the weight room and complimented with surfing and hiking, I felt great.
What I didn’t realize until my time ended at Sac State is how important it is to be outdoors, or at least finding new ways to stay active. Initially I saw surfing as a great back and core workout and hiking as a solid leg and cardio workout. Sure, surfing and hiking alongside gym workouts at Josh’s place benefitted my body immensely, but the traveling and finding new ways to stay active did wonders for my mind. Thinking outside the box and putting my body through different workouts was the perfect change-up.
Baseball is a game of failure, we all know that. That’s what drives us day in and day out. Every pitcher wants to throw a heavy 98 with movement and have one or two flashy secondary pitches. Every hitter wants to hit .300 with 30+ pumps and 100+ rbi’s. We’re all perfectionists in this game that’s designed for us to fail more often than not. It’s easy to flashback to the three run moonshot you gave up in the 8th, or the game ending double play you rolled into in your last AB to top off your 0-4 day at the dish. Dwelling on the negative in your hotel room after a bad day at the yard can start to get you off track, away from your “plan” and it becomes easy to lose focus of why you’re still playing the game.
For me, adventuring to new surf spots, camping up on the California Coast or visiting old friends gave me time to reflect on all the positive things that come along with being a baseball player. I started to become thankful for all the incredible relationships that form along the way, but most importantly it gave me a chance to think about all the people I have in my corner pulling for me to improve and give myself more opportunity to continue chasing “the dream.”
My days at Sac State were all-time, I met guys and girls who have changed my life forever and continue to impact me on a day to day level. Getting drafted out of Sac State in 2015 gave me new aspirations and new opportunities for my career. I’d realized that all the hard work in the gym and at the field was starting to pay off. I also noticed that my mind was sharper than ever and I was searching for new ways to develop my craft.
Following my first year of pro-ball I decided I was going to take the workouts to a new level and I was going to travel more than I’d ever traveled before. The goal was to carry my college offseason mentality into pro ball, mixing in travel where ever I could. In my first two off-seasons I’ve been lucky enough to see Hawaii, Italy, Paris, Spain, and Iceland along with countless snowshoeing adventures in Lake Tahoe and camping trips along the coast. Timing is everything. The priority is and always will be baseball, but for me it’s been key to escape in order to be fresh and locked in when it matters most.
Training away from the weight room and diamond has allowed me to do that without loosing a beat or affecting my numbers in the weight room. Working out on a daily basis at Sacramento’s best facility (The Academy) with Brian Washington the last few years has been huge in continuing my growth in the weight room. Sacramento is also conveniently located just over 90 min from The Bay and 90 min from the Sierra’s. Set yourself up for the things you want in life…
Get away from your phone for a couple days camping in Big Sur. Go get lost in the snow and stumble upon train tracks that will lead you back to your car. Start small and build it up. The game can be so mentally exhausting, I’ve found it more and more important to get away from it (at the right times) while also finding new ways to build strength in a new way. Today I’ll be on a flight to Palm Beach, Florida to get back to this thing we call “the grind” and my mind and body have never felt more refreshed and ready to go.
For those of you reading this thinking “I don’t have the time or money for this,” you’re wrong. If something’s important enough to you, you can make the time and you can make the money to travel comfortably. I was a senior sign, my signing bonus was 1,000 USD. I am fortunate and blessed to have people in my life that have given me opportunities to earn as much money as I’m willing to work for. In the minor leagues we’re making just enough to get by. Put money aside in the offseason, do something that challenges you, find something you love & find a way to get out there and see the world. If there’s ever something you won’t regret, it’s seeing how other cultures live.