CINCINNATI -- Reds pitcher Mike Leake pleaded guilty on Friday to a reduced charge of unauthorized use of property -- a fourth degree misdemeanor -- stemming from an arrest on accusations he shoplifted from a department store. Leake was accepted into Hamilton County court-sponsored diversion program, as part of his plea agreement. If the 23-year-old completes 30 hours of community service and counseling, his case will be dismissed. On April 18, Leake was taken into custody on a theft charge after being seen removing the price tags from six T-shirts at a downtown Macy's store and leaving the store with the property, valued at $59.88.
Speaking to reporters from the Reds dugout, Leake offered contrition to the Reds, their ownership, front office and teammates, and to Macy's for his mistake. "I sincerely apologize to them for putting all this pressure on them and the drama I caused," Leake said. Leake also told his side of the story, and claimed to have no intention of theft. He said he was trying exchange shirts that were already paid for. "On April 2, I went into purchase six shirts and they did not fit -- wrong size. I proceeded to go to Macy's and exchange them on my own instead of talking to the clerk," Leake explained. "I set the six shirts down and got the correct sizes myself, walked out and they stopped me. I realize how boneheaded of a move that was. It was very wrong and I sincerely apologize. "It was a serious lapse in judgment. For that, I will be willing to do anything I have to do." Leake said that he did not have a receipt for the shirts he purchased but did have a credit card statement that proved the purchase was made. Whether that was explained to the store at the time of the arrest is not known. "I'd rather not get into it. We'll let it rest where it is," Leake said. As for why Leake chose to execute the exchange improperly, that also remains a mystery. "I couldn't tell you the exact reason, my thought process exactly what was going on through my head," Leake said. "I know it was truly a bad mistake. For that, I'm willing to do whatever I need to do." Leake said his 30 hours of community service would be performed for various non-profit agencies. "I'm glad that it's almost over and I'm very pleased he gets to tell, finally, his side of the story," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Everybody in the country needs to hear it. Everywhere we go, you see the signs and things. They've been a little cruel to him about the situation without knowing the full facts. Now they can make their assessment." Since the arrest, Leake has delivered his two best starts of the season for Cincinnati, going 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA. He worked seven innings in both games, most recently on Tuesday at Milwaukee -- and had 11 hits, two walks and 12 strikeouts. Leake was pleased with how he performed under the circumstances and tried to minimize the distraction. "That was my goal," said Leake, who is 3-0 with a 4.40 ERA in five starts this season. "I didn't want it to affect my teammates or anybody around me. I just had to keep my head on straight. I thought it would be a little more difficult but with the support of the fans, I didn't feel any type of pressure from anybody. I'm grateful for that."