Leesburg Lightning Head Coach Rich Billings has always had a close connection with the game of baseball. Whether that was dreaming of a career as a professional baseball player or learning the game from his father, baseball has always been near and dear.
“My dad played in college and coached for a few years as I was growing up so I was always around the game,” Coach Billings said. “Even from a young age, I knew my love for the game would extend to coaching and I never looked back.”
Billings began his collegiate career playing at Lake-Sumter Community College where he received his A.A. Degree. He then transferred to East Tennessee State University, where he played for the Buccaneers and graduated with a B.S. Degree in History. Soon after, Billings became the assistant coach at his alma-mater Lake-Sumter while earning his Master’s Degree. A year after being named assistant coach, Billings was promoted to the head coaching position where he held the role until 2012.
Following five years as the head coach at Lake-Sumter, Billings then took his knowledge of the game to Florida Atlantic University where he served as an assistant coach from 2012-2014. During the summer of 2014, he also served as an assistant coach for the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plains League.
Billings returned home in the fall of 2014 and became the head coach of his early alma-mater, Leesburg High School. One year later in 2015, he returned to where he was given his first coaching opportunity, and was named the head coach at Lake-Sumter State College — he also currently serves as the sports information director.
Now in his second season at the helm of the Lightning after two previous stints as an assistant coach — 2007 and 2012 — Billings is back in a community that has profound meaning to him.
“I grew up watching the Leesburg Yellow Jackets dreaming of one day donning the Yellow Jacket uniform for the high school team,” Billings said. “I eventually had the opportunity to do so and was even more blessed with the opportunity to play in college.”
Stretching far beyond his experiences on and off the field, Billings made sure to illustrate his admiration and appreciation for the Leesburg Lightning organization.
“Having been involved with the planning process of this organization since day one, it’s been a pleasure to see what has been created,” Billings said. “All of the hard work put in by the board of directors has created a product that brings the entire community together.”
Not only has the Leesburg Lightning organization brought a community together, but it has also continued to bring players back who can’t seem to get enough of the experience.
“The cool thing is that once the guys get here and get a first-hand experience of the community and fan interaction, they don’t want to leave at the end of the summer,” Billings said.
It’s an atmosphere that keeps players and coaches coming back and Coach Billings can attest to that better than anyone.
“Pat Thomas Stadium is truly a special place and I’m lucky enough to be able to coach these young men during such a unique and transcendent experience.”