Claimed by his peers to be one of the hardest hitters in baseball locally, a Northumberland County native is set to join the Northern Neck’s well known sports figures in the coming days. Joining the likes of local and former pro athletes James Coates and John Jett, Leon Elwood Douglas Jr. is preparing to be enshrined into the history of local sports.
On April 13 at 2 p.m., Douglas will be the next member of the Northern Neck Sports Wall of Fame in Lancaster County joining future and fellow induction members Malcolm Lewis, former high school coach, and Rappahannock High’s coach Ellen Gaines. The ceremony
will take place at Dream Fields located near downtown Kilmarnock.
“It’s really nice that people in the community still remember I was a ballplayer and I really appreciate it,” said Douglas. “It’s just a big honor and I appreciate it.”
The former minor league baseball player was aware of the wall of fame before being nominated. He’s was very familiar with such members such as William M. “Billy” Walker and Coates who were both inducted in 2000. It was also Walker who encouraged scouts to come see Douglas before he graduated from high school.
“I owe him a lot because he really got me into playing professional baseball,” Douglas said.
On rare occasions have baseball players from the Northern Neck been recruited to join major or minor league sports teams. In the case of Douglas, he was scouted by two teams and was selected by one following his graduation right out of Northumberland High School in 1960.
“I really didn’t know anything about it until my last game,” the right-handed slugger said ending his final year hitting .347, earned 10 homeruns and 30 rbi’s.
It turned out that the 20-year-old Douglas at the time would sign a contract with the Milwaukee Braves for their Jacksonville Team called the Wellsville Braves.
In 1961, he became an all star in the New York-Pennsylvania Baseball League after his first season as an outfielder. He had 42 hits, nine of which were doubles, collected 27 rbi’s and scored eight homeruns batting at .331. Warsaw native Howard Wood joined Douglas in the league.
“It was really nice. I enjoyed it all,” Douglas said, about his two-year period in the minor league.
One of the pitfalls of playing in the minor league during the early 1960’s was the long travels and little pay, Douglas pointed out.
“It was a hard life. We used to have to ride Greyhound buses all day or half a day,” Douglas said, adding that he would travel up 250 miles for games.
“It was rough, but I enjoyed it,” Douglas said, who travelled to such places at Iowa and New York. It had been the most travelling he had ever done.
After two years in a minor league, Douglas returned home to work. He realized during those years playing baseball there wouldn’t be much of a future for him in the sport with travel and expense costs, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying his time.
Since that time he has spent of the early years playing fastpitch softball, remained in his hometown and will be honored for representing the Northern Neck in the minor league.