Beloved Kenton Ridge softball ‘team executive’ dies at 92

Emil Leach worked with coach Sarah Schalnat’s team up until this spring

Kenton Ridge High School softball seniors posed for a photo on the field on Friday with the name “Emil” written inside a heart behind home plate.

Emil Leach, who died Thursday at 92, worked with the team for decades until health problems in recent weeks. His title, “team executive,” covered his many duties. He was part of more than 1,000 victories in 32 years with the girls basketball and softball programs.

A moment of silence was held at Ed Foulk Field, which is named after the coach, during a 17-1 Senior Day victory against Northwestern.

Fans at the game heard this read over the loudspeaker about Leach: “He was a staple in the Kenton Ridge dugout and basketball court for 40 years. He served many roles from scorekeeper to record book keeper to announcer to Santa. He was someone who loved and was loved by everyone.

On Facebook, the Kenton Ridge softball account paid tribute to Leach on Friday: “The coaches, athletes, parents and fans love him so much, and we all shed tears tonight as we shared stories on Senior Night of our favorite moments with him from getting out of the way when he drove off the field, to how many dings his car has, from foul balls, to all the smiles and high fives that each girl did when they scored and came in the dugout. He loved seeing them score, and they always looked forward to the nod, the smile and the high five.”

One of Leach’s many duties was sometimes singing the national anthem before games. Kenton Ridge head coach Sarah Schalnat plans to play a recording of Leach singing at a Champion City Kings game from this point forward.

“He was always positive for the kids,” Schalnat said. “He was always smiling and telling them good job when they came in the dugout.”

Leach grew up in Tremont City and graduated from Lawrenceville High School in 1948. He was a senior class president that year.

According to his obituary, Leach was a veteran of the United States Army and member of the Elks Lodge No. 51 in Springfield.

Leach joined Foulk’s softball staff in 1992 when one of his daughters was playing for the reserve team at the high school and then started coaching with Foulk in basketball. He remained on Foulk’s basketball staff until Foulk retired in 2017 after 33 seasons.

“He was always there for me,” Foulk said.

Leach continued working with the softball team when Schalnat, a 1998 Kenton Ridge graduate, took over the program in the 2010 season.

Leach earned his 1,000th victory as an assistant coach in basketball and softball in 2015.

“It’s just a labor of love,” Leach said then. “I love being around the kids, and we have a lot of fun.”

Kenton Ridge Athletic Director Kris Spriggs said he has been at the high school for 24 years, and Leach was there for every one of them.

“He was just dedicated and loyal to Kenton Ridge softball and girls basketball,” Springs said.

Leach, whose wife Alice died in 2021, is survived by six children, nine grandchildren, nine great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at Conroy Funeral Home. Visitation starts at 4 p.m. He will be laid to rest at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Tremont City/.

Memorial contributions can be made in Leach’s name to the Kenton Ridge High School Boosters Softball Fund.

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