Eric Leach Takes Pride in Influencing the Lives of Others.

by | Aug 2023

ERIC LEACH is a busy guy. A father of two boys, husband, community servant, and successful businessman, his days often start early and end late. While his responsibilities are many, you’ll never find him too busy to take a minute for someone. He knows the value of taking time to listen and the importance of connection. While being successful in each area of his life, Leach knows that real success is leaving those he comes into contact with better than he found him.

Sports has always been a mainstay in his life. As the youngest of four siblings, Leach said they were required to be involved in a sport and music. 

“There were two things we were required to do for a period of time as far as extracurricular: music and sports. Both helped to challenge us in different ways,” said Leach.

Leach’s love of sports would follow him into adulthood, where he would land a job working in minor league baseball. His longest stint to date has been with the minor league team, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, which he has called home for almost a decade as president and Chief Operating Officer.

“Some of the things that I’m most proud of is winning three championships in four years in the nine completed seasons I’ve been here,” he said. “But it’s much more than winning; it’s about the relationships with our partners, season ticket holders, and the fans. If I could hang my hat on one thing, it’s everything we’ve been able to do for the community as a venue. At the end of the 2022 season, we did about 160 events on top of Hot Rods baseball. We had a goal of making this ballpark what I like to call ‘a beacon for Warren County.’” 

Leach’s success with the Hot Rods attracted the attention of the Mid-South Conference. In early 2023 he was offered the commissioner position for the 12-team conference with member institutions in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. 

“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I’m excited about the new opportunity with the Mid-South Conference. It’s also bittersweet because I’m leaving Hot Rods after 10 years, and that organization has just become such a part of my life. I have two boys, 12 and 9, and I think I started working here before my 9-year-old was born. You leave a part of yourself when you’ve been with an organization that long.”

Photographed by Brittany Johnson.

Now embarking on this new journey, Leach is excited to build new relationships. 

“I told the schools when talking to them that I don’t necessarily want the biggest conference, but I want the best conference and just to make sure that all the member schools are healthy, thriving, and vibrant,” he said. 

While success has certainly followed Leach in his career, challenges have also been a part of Leach’s life. 

“In 2002, I started experiencing facial twitching and just this intense and sharp pain. The doctors diagnosed me with Bell’s palsy, which was interesting because the pain was extreme, and one doesn’t have pain with Bell’s palsy,” he explained. 

When the facial paralysis and pain returned, Leach visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist after moving to Virginia. 

Photographed by Brittany Johnson.

“I was properly diagnosed with a Schwannoma tumor at the University of Virginia. I went in for a seven-hour surgery that went 11 1/2 hours,” he said. 

Non-cancerous, Schwannoma is a rare type of tumor that forms in the nervous system. Leach later learned that the tumor was much larger than anticipated and had grown into the base of his brain. A second surgery to remove more of the tumor would leave Leach with permanent facial paralysis, some vision loss, and only about 10% of hearing in his right ear. 

According to Leach, due to dedicated physicians at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, he underwent a game-changing third surgery that restored his hearing to around 80%.

Leach said his faith and relationship with God helped him through this challenging season. 

“I had a conversation with God after my surgery and told him I was here to do whatever he needed me to,” he explained. “It changed me and how I dealt with others and treated people. I realized that this life is a precious gift. Years later, people ask if I would change things, and I don’t know if I’d go back because it shaped me into the person I am today. There are difficult times, but it’s overcoming that. It’s interesting because people who know me say they don’t even notice it anymore because they say it’s just me they see, not the paralysis.” 

Whether overseeing a National Sports Conference, serving for a nonprofit, or being a devoted father and husband, Leach said it’s all about doing his best each day. 

“I’m just me,” he said. “I try to wake up every day and do my best. I genuinely care about people. It’s interesting because I am a diehard introvert and like to be alone to recharge. However, I’m in a very extroverted job. I love investing in people, trying to bring out positive change, and always leaving people better than I found them. And a lot of that’s just my upbringing. My dad and mom were the same way. It’s the example they set that I can carry out and try to do as well.” GN

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