Michael Leiderman, a patron of Long Island baseball who helped hundreds of local players fulfill their baseball dreams for the past 35 years with managerial guidance and monetary support, died early Sunday. The longtime Merrick resident died from complications of ALS, said Galita Leiderman, his wife of 30 years. He was 56.
Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
“If anyone could beat ALS it would have been Michael,” Galita said. “He suffered for four years and never gave up. He kept the disease private because he didn’t want anyone to be burdened with his suffering. He believed he was going to beat it.”
Leiderman wasn’t afraid to take risks, which served him well with his internationally known men’s baseball team, the Long Island Storm, and with the furniture business, where he was always up for any challenge.
He cofounded and owned The Atlantic Group, a commercial office furniture company that supplies workplaces all over the world. Leiderman’s competitive spirit and knack for sales helped the multimillion-dollar company flourish over the past two decades.
“He is regarded as one of the most influential and respected business furniture experts in the country,” said his daughter, Erica Kleinstein of Manhattan, who works as the vice president for sales in the company. “My dad was absolutely the most passionate person in the world. He did everything at 110%, nothing less. He was a polarizing figure with a super competitive drive.”
Leiderman graduated from Springfield Gardens High School in 1978. He attended Queens College, where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1982. He was a four-year starter on the Knights baseball team.
Leiderman created his first men's baseball team, the Long Island Brewers, at age 21. The team later became the Long Island Storm.
He met Galita Bochner in 1983 through work, and they were married in 1988.
Leiderman founded the Storm Baseball Academy in West Hempstead in 2009 for players 8 years old to adult.
“Mike put his soul into the Storm program,” said James Rose, the president of the Long Island Stan Musial Baseball League. “His teams are well known. Perhaps his greatest achievement was traveling to Havana, Cuba, in 2003 and beating the powerhouse Cuban National team.”
John Matarazzo of Rockville Centre, a close friend who played for the LI Storm, said Leiderman persuaded major league management to play his club in spring training games.
“He was one of a kind,” Matarazzo said. “Who thinks to schedule amateur teams against pro teams like the Mets, Phillies and Cardinals in spring training? Or go to Cuba or British Columbia? Or go to Italy or the Dominican Republic? He had no boundaries, nothing was impossible for him. He wanted to take people places that they’d never been. He was larger than life.”
Major league players that Leiderman worked with include Reid Gorecki, Wilson Delgado, Elvis Pena and Jose Paniagua.
Perhaps his proudest moment was watching his son, David, play professionally for the Miami Marlins.
“My dad was so proud to see me play professionally and live the dream,” David Leiderman said. “It’s really hard to put into words how much it meant to me to reach that goal for him. He gave me everything to achieve my goals. He was my best friend and my idol.”
Leiderman is also survived by son-in-law Eric Kleinstein and his sister Caren Samplin, both of Manhattan.
A funeral will be held at Gutterman’s Funeral Home, 8000 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury, on Tuesday at noon.
Shiva will be Tuesday at Caren Samplin's house, 1859 Old Mill Rd., Merrick, from 7 to 9 p.m. Shiva will also be at the Leiderman apartment at 605 West 42nd St. in Manhattan on Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 7-10 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.