It’s Leo Season


Celebrity sports icons are often remembered for their time spent with the programs they play for. Michael Jordan is known for his time at the Chicago Bulls and Derek Jeter is remembered for his legacy with the New York Yankees.

Some of the greatest players in sports history are remembered for leaving their home teams for a new chapter in their careers. When this occurs, fans long for a homecoming to their original team.

While this is often celebrated in the professional sports world, the great stories of athletes returning home on a smaller scale are overlooked. Leo Sarnataro, a sophomore criminal justice major, did just this at Arkansas Tech. 

Sarnataro grew up living in Little Rock, Arkansas. During the summer before beginning seventh grade, his family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. His father was a member of the United States Air Force and after retiring, began flying planes for Southwest Airlines. His family decided to move to a prominent Southwest Airlines hub in Arizona, drastically changing life as Sarnataro knew it. 

When he arrived in Arizona, he spent a large portion of the summer searching for a new school to best fit his goal to become a collegiate baseball player. Sarnataro chose to begin his high school career at Desert Mountain High School. 

“I went out and did a workout on the varsity field, toured the middle school and high school academic facilities, and decided this was the closest fit I would find to what I needed to succeed,” said Sarnataro. 

In high school, after playing his sophomore year as a scrappy player who saw time on the diamond mostly as a pinch runner and occasional defensive player, he realized his transition would not be easy. During his junior year, he secured a spot at second base and went on to win an Arizona State Championship. After a strong senior season, he decided to focus on becoming a collegiate athlete. 

During Sarnataro’s senior season, he began looking into colleges and universities trying to obtain a scholarship to play baseball. He longed to return to the South and had not thought of playing in his home state. However, after connecting with Dave Dawson, the Arkansas Tech head baseball coach, the idea of returning home became a reality. 

Dawson traveled to Arizona and met with Sarnataro during a tournament. Dawson explained he had natural talents on the baseball field and asked if he would be interested in visiting the ATU campus. Sarnataro agreed and flew out to Arkansas in the fall. 

“When I stepped onto campus for the first time, I immediately felt like I was home,” said Sarnataro. 

Sarnataro left the ATU visit and met with coaches in Virginia and Ohio. While the schools were great and the programs were strong, he never felt the connection that he did at ATU. 

Sarnataro began his collegiate journey as a baseball player at Arkansas Tech in the fall of 2022. His journey at Arkansas Tech has been very similar to his transition to high school baseball in Arizona. He is serving as a vital role player who pinch runs and occasionally spends time in the infield. 

“I love challenges and I always want to get better. I am surrounded by a group of teammates who share the same mindset. We are a family, and we trust the process of being great. I am looking forward to playing baseball here for the next three years of my life. I am and always will be a Wonder Boy,” said Sarnataro.