Legendary Manager Will Throw Out the First Ball on Opening Day 2036
by Caitlen Sullivan
Vancouver Sun Sports Reporter
November 25, 2035
Born in 1939 in Pontiac, Michigan, Leo Lyons was the son of an executive at the Ford Motor Company and his wife, a former cheerleader at Pontiac High School. He attended public schools in Pontiac and played baseball for the Pontiac High School Phoenix (signifying Pontiac High as a new school, risen from the ashes, as in the legend of the Phoenix) from 1954 through 1957. He had aspirations of a baseball scholarship at Notre Dame or the University of Michigan. Alas, he wasn’t quite good enough.
The best he could do for a college scholarship was an offer to play for the University of British Columbia, hardly a bastion of baseball interest. But he went and played as a UBC Thunderbird for four years. During that time he was well regarded as a first baseman, but UBC was an average team at best. He drew no interest from baseball scouts as his college career came to close.
After a year off, in 1963 Leo enlisted in the US Air Force where he served for three years as a radar technician. After his discharge he moved from Michigan back to Vancouver, a city he had learned to love during his college years. With his degree in education and sports management from UBC, he was hired to be a science teacher and the baseball coach at Vancouver’s Prince of Wales Secondary School. He led the Walesmen to four consecutive divisional baseball titles from 1970 to 1973. While coaching at Prince of Wales, he became a Canadian citizen. He married a local girl with whom he had three children.
Then in 1975 the baseball coaching position at The University of British Columbia became open. He applied for the job, and, much to his surprise, he got it! He coached the Thunderbirds for 24 years, winning seven conference championships. In 1994 at age 55, he retired with the idea of doing a lot of fishing near the couple’s new home in Minaty Bay, 50 kilometers north of Vancouver.
He was at home one evening getting ready for the next day’s fishing when he got a call from the owner of the Vancouver Mounties. “Would he like to become the manager of the MBBA Mounties?” he was asked. After almost immediately responding “No,” he had second thoughts. What did Victoria, his wife, think about it? Her response: “I hate fishing. I hate Minaty Bay. I hate the Wilderness. I love Vancouver!” “Let’s do it,” they decided.
So he took over the Mounties in 1995. They were horrible (57-105). In 1996 a new General Manager, Joe Geoghegan, took over and they were horrible again (62-100). He expected to be fired and replaced by the new GM’s man. But he wasn’t. Geoghegan and Lyons formed a bond and decided that together they could bring a championship to Vancouver.
The team improved to 78-84 in 1997. Things looked bright for 1998. Alas, it was a disappointing year all around with another 78-84 record. At age 59 Lyons was ready to go fishing again. Geoghegan talked him out of it. Several players were going to come into their own. 1999 was going to be big. Lyons agreed to stick around.
The rest is history. The Mounties won 102 games in 1999. They won the Landis Memorial Cup. They repeated at Landis Champions in 2000. They routinely challenged for more championships through 2006. They routinely drew close to or more than 4,000,000 fans per year.
The Mounties were at the top of their game, but Lyons retired after the 2006 season. His career MBBA record, despite starting with four losing seasons, two of them horrifically bad, was 1038-906. Leo was universally recognized around the league as one of the best managers in baseball. He left with happy memories, and he was both respected and idolized.
Victoria passed away in 2014 at age 75. Leo spends almost all of his time now in Minaty Bay, often visited by his grand children and great grand children. He will turn 97 years old in May of next year. But before that birthday he will be coming back to Vancouver to be Guest of Honor at the Mounties’ first game of the 2036 season where he will throw out the first ball. And then he will be inducted into the Vancouver Mounties’ Hall of Fame and have his plaque unveiled at home plate. We cannot think of anyone more deserving. Plan now to be there and witness the event.