The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Meet Leo Baumgardner, field hockey’s star practice player

The field hockey team poses with sophomore Leo Baumgardner at Metzgar Fields. (Photo by Rick Smith for GoLeopards)

Sophomore Leo Baumgardner has athletic experience at the international level, practices his sport every day and manages his studies at the same time. So, why is he not on a Lafayette roster? 

The answer: the California native spends his time as a practice player for the women’s field hockey team.

“Although he is unable to play in games, Leo is just as valued in our team as any other member,” junior defender and captain India Ralph said. “He shares all the same experiences as us, has to attend every practice, [conditioning session] and lift and balances academics as well. He just gets what it’s like to be a part of the Lafayette field hockey team and we absolutely love him.”

Including male practice players is common among college field hockey teams, especially at schools bigger than Lafayette.

However, field hockey is not a common sport among male athletes in the United States. For Baumgardner, it was about being at the right place at the right time. 

“My parents heard about a small field hockey league about 15 minutes from my house in California,” he said. “It’s one of only a few places in the United States where boys play field hockey. I played for a club … until I made the jump to the men’s division … I always wished I could play in college, but there is no men’s collegiate field hockey. I would have had to play internationally.”

Baumgardner found out about Lafayette through a college tour in his sophomore year of high school, and immediately loved the feeling of being on campus. Then, it was about connecting with the coaching staff. 

“Coach Stone has been nothing but generous to me from day one,” Baumgardner said. “She’s given me her time and attention and made it clear that she values me as a part of her team. I’m grateful to be so included and to have a home in this program.”

Baumgardner was most recently named to the United States field hockey under-21 national team training squad. 

“It’s an incredible honor to represent the US competitively,” Baumgardner said. “I feel immense pride every time I get to put on the jersey. It’s truly a privilege.”

For the field hockey players, having his experience at practice sessions improves their performance and productivity. While it is challenging, it is also rewarding. 

“Leo does not go easy on us,” Ralph said. “He always brings a competitive element to practice and raises the standard of our team. Although he is fast, skillful and insane at defending, I would like to think that we also break his ankles occasionally.”

While Baumgardner helps the team improve, he also benefits from this role. With big goals for the future, training at this stage of his career is more important than ever. 

“I’m training to make the United States Men’s National Field Hockey Team,” he said. “I’m currently on the under twenty-one team and I was just named to the development team, which is like the training squad for the national team. My long-term goals include playing in the 2028 and 2032 Olympics and playing professionally in Europe after college.”

Between stints with the junior national team, Baumgardner can be found at Rappolt Field, practicing and having fun with the group. 

“I have a great relationship with the team,” Baumgardner said. “It’s like having over 20 really close friends. We’ve gotten along right from the start and I’m glad I get to call them teammates. They’re invested in my success, and I’m invested in theirs.”

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Eric Ponieman
Eric Ponieman, Assistant Sports Editor
Roll Pards!

Comments (0)

If you wish for your response to an article to be submitted as a letter to the editor, please email [email protected].
All Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *