Honsing Leung - SPAD 1995
Written by Randy Pascal, SPAD 1985
Born in Hong Kong but moving to Canada at the age of six, Toronto Blue Jays’ Senior Manager of Client Services and LU Sports Administration alum Honsing Leung might not seem like a natural fit to a sport that he has loved for the better part of his 44 years.
Yet here we are.
With a little luck and some positive movement on the pandemic, Leung will celebrate twenty years with the Jays come February of 2021. But looking back, it was a much a confluence of fortuitous factors that paved the way to the early steps the young man would take, growing up in Scarborough.
“I was never an elite athlete, but I was playing baseball as soon as I could, maybe 10 or 11 years old,” he said. “It was a simple and inexpensive sport. It was also something that I could get to by myself. It was either a short bus ride or bike ride away, or sometimes, I would be picked up by one of the other neighbourhood families.”
Living with his mom, ease of access was critical for Leung, who developed, athletically, to the point of playing rep baseball by the time he reached R.H. King Secondary School. At a time in his life when an ultra-close social circle would shape much of the ensuing years, Leung and his co-horts lived and breathed baseball.
“I knew that my love for baseball was growing and I wanted to figure out how to find works in sports – and more specifically, in baseball,” he said.
The early signs of what could lie ahead were not terribly hard to discern. “A buddy and I actually started a baseball camp as a summer job when I was in grade ten,” Leung recalled. “We did the permitting, rented a facility, and did the marketing. As I look back on it now, that was a pretty neat experience for a high school kid, running my own business.”
“We didn’t make any money, but we didn’t lose any money, either.”
Ironically, it was a friend who enrolled in SPAD, but only for one year, who opened the door to his journey to northern Ontario. “I had never been to Sudbury, I had no idea that the weather was quite that much colder than Toronto,” he laughed. “But I had always been interested in business courses – and then the sports classes were interesting, just because they were so different.”
Super friendly by nature, Leung stumbled across new classmates who helped the transition period to his new post-secondary environment. “I was lucky enough to be with some SPAD guys who were doing the degree as their second degree – we all rented a house together in third year (core year),” he said.
“It really allowed me to get to that point where I could learn a lot from them, based on the fact that they had already gone through the process.”
And as so many successful SPAD grads are quick to note, the lessons learned at Laurentian University stretch well beyond the classroom. “I hadn’t really learned the process of networking, initially, perhaps as a function of where we were located,” said Leung. “But the internship component was actually pretty robust, at that time – employers would come up to Sudbury to do the interviewing.”
“I think, for me, once I got in that world and you start to network and you start to build relationships, you realize that this is something that you should be doing all the time.”
Still, he concedes, having the ability to create a positive impression is no easy task. Lack sincerity and folks will see right through you. Over and over again, Leung would strike just the right mix between a likeable humility in his manner, balanced against a confidence in his own abilities, understanding that he could tackle a challenge, unafraid to convey that message with just the right words.
“I always tell people that I was at the right place at the right time with the right skill set.”
It was through a friend from his high-school days, then completing his Masters in Sports Management at Florida State, that Leung was introduced to the staff that would not only oversee his post-graduate studies, but also align him with a valuable internship with the FSU Varsity Club.
“It was a great experience,” said Leung, harkening back. “I got a chance to see what NCAA Division I college football really is. I wasn’t even a casual fan, but you’re immersed in it when you are a school like Florida State. I had a chance to do a lot of different things, everything ranging from working the door at events, running golf tournaments – even just sitting opening envelopes from people that were sending in boatloads of cheques.”
Leveraging the work that he was doing at FSU, Leung would be selected as one of 20 grad students, from a field of applicants that covered the entire United States of America, hired on to an internship program at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney. Though his tenure would last only ten months or so – the opportunity to join the Blue Jays came up midway through his internship – Leung still views his time in Orlando as invaluable.
“Some of the best times of my life, quite honestly, were working at Disney World,” he said. “We were all housed at Animal Kingdom, but our offices were all together. Going to the parks for free, golfing for free, and meeting a lot of like-minded people – I loved working at Disney.”
“But this was a chance to work with the Blue Jays, the team I grew up cheering for and had always wanted to work for,” Leung continued. “I was ready to take anything, a basic entry level position.” And so he made the jump, returning to Toronto.
In short order, he climbed the ranks, quickly finding his happy place (pardon the Disney vernacular).
“Once I got into the sponsorship team, to be completely honest, there really wasn’t much of an interest in moving into something else,” he said. “Once I started learning the process of what it takes to be on the sales team or the executive and service team, I loved it.”
“You’re working with the biggest brands in Canada. The further I got along with the club, the more I realized just how much of an affinity people have for the Jays – especially when you’re winning. There wasn’t another department where I felt I wanted to work there.”
Honsing Leung is more than just a little content – and why not. A lifelong baseball fan, he not only lives the sport through his work, but also benefits from a setting where he can also tap into countless sounding boards as he has continues to work through a variety of teams as a coach with the Toronto Mets.
“The ability to interact with the coaches here and some of the players, now, given that I’ve known a lot of the guys in baseball operations for a while, it really plays to the excitement that I have in just talking baseball.”
What more could he ask for than that.