In the small town of Brooksville, Florida, Hernando High School stands as one of its oldest monuments. Built way back in 1889, the high school is a major focal point for this small community of 9,000 residents located about 40 miles from Tampa.
This public school is one of the oldest in the US but their sports complex is the greatest in the area, bringing events from nearby towns and spectators from far away to watch their winning programs. The complex includes a gymnasium, weight training facility, a performing arts center, a track, and football stadium. Their baseball field, which has hosted the Leopard’s proud baseball tradition for years, was part of a recent renovation that included new lighting and a wonderful 1550 LED scoreboard, one of many baseball scoreboards manufactured by Electro-Mech, that keeps fans updated with detailed inning by inning statistics. The team has struggled over the past few seasons but there is no denying some of the outstanding players that have come through the vaunted program.
Bronson Arroyo was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000. The right-handed pitcher and former Hernando Leopard, was used sparingly in his three seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded during the 2003 season to the Boston Red Sox. There, Boston was assembling what would become a world championship team and Arroyo fit right in. He was able to drop his ERA from the mid 5s down to the 4s in his two complete seasons pitching behind the likes of Curt Shilling and Pedro Martinez. Arroyo was even treated to a World Series appearance, pitching 3 innings over two games of the Sox 4-game win over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. After the 2005 season, Arroyo signed with the Cincinnati Reds and has continued to pitch with them since. His career-low ERA of 3.29 came in 2006 on his way to posting a 14-11 win-loss record for the Reds.
A.J. Pierzynski was drafted straight out of Hernando High School in 1994 by the Minnesota Twins. He played in his first Major League game in 1998 for the Twins, playing two seasons as their backup catcher before moving to the starting position. Pierzynski has now played as catcher in the big leagues for eleven years and has amassed a very respectable .283 career batting average. Pierzynski has been voted an All Star twice and was part of the World Champion Chicago White Sox team in 2006. In 2009, he began his fifth season with the White Sox.
Tyronne Woods was also a graduate from the esteemed baseball tradition of the Leopards. Woods never broke into the Major Leagues but had a great and long career in the Minors. Drafted right out of Hernando High School as a third baseman by the Montreal Expos in 1988, Woods spent ten years in the Minor Leagues in the US and developed a mid 300s batting average. He then went to the Korean Baseball League and became the first foreign player to hit a home run and to be ejected. He finished his professional career in Japan.