OLATHE, KS (KCTV) -- A school community has lost a coach and mentor who died this week from COVID-19 complications.
Derek Leppert was the assistant coach at Olathe West High School. He passed away yesterday after struggling with coronavirus symptoms for more than a week.
On Friday, his family and friends shared his story with KCTV5’s Nathan Vickers.
Every now and then, you find a teacher or a coach who seems to make an impression on every young person they meet. That's how people describe Leppert.
Instead of focusing on his illness, they wanted to focus on the spark he ignited in so many.
The baseball diamond will now feel a little different at Olathe West. The dugout will miss the presence of Coach Leppert.
“He's one of a kind,” said Head Coach Rick Sabbath. “He has touched so many lives. In this really difficult time, it provides some comfort.”
Leppert has held the respect of the baseball community. He'd coached at the collegiate level and worked with the Royals Scout Team program. Last year, one baseball organization named him high school coach of the year.
“Not only did he teach baseball, he taught life,” Sabbath said.
Today, Sabbath gathered with Leppert's wife, children, and others who treasured Leppert's influence.
“He's a larger than life personality,” Sabbath said. “It's been difficult for us.”
Sabbath has also started a GoFundMe to help his colleague's family. Stacy Leppert said they've received support from her husband's school community and beyond.
“It's not easy to talk to your kids about something like this,” Leppert said. “We appreciate the support from the community.”
Sabbath said it's been difficult to grieve as a team right now because of social distancing precautions. However, he and others take some comfort in knowing Leppert's influence reached far beyond the outfield walls.
“The impact he had in his time here is something that should be a goal for all of us,” Sabbath said.
Leppert's friends and family said they're working with the Royals to hold some sort of honor for him at Kauffman Stadium.
Later on Friday, the Royals released the following statement:
"We join the entire Kansas City community in mourning the death of Derek Leppert.
Coach Leppert was an invaluable member of the Kansas City Royals Scout Team Program for the last 2 years while also serving as an assistant coach at Olathe West High School. He was the recipient of the 2019 National High School Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Coach Lepp was a tremendous coach, a selfless friend, and an amazing ambassador of the game of baseball. His passion to see the growth and development of young baseball players has created a legacy that will not be forgotten. We are so thankful to have played a small part in his life’s journey. Please keep his wife, Stacy, and his sons, Christopher and Jayden as well as all his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.
We will have a moment of silence to remember Coach Leppert prior to tomorrow’s game."