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Tom Leyden's not a native Detroiter. But he sure could've fooled the viewers night in and night out as, for more than a decade, he has steered the sports dialogue on one topic after another.

"It didn't take him long to understand the pulse of the Detroit sports fans," said WXYZ's Brad Galli. "For every second he was on the air, he was believable."

Those seconds are running out in Detroit.

In April, Leyden, Channel 7's sports director at Metro Detroit's ABC affiliate since 2012 and a sports reporter for the eight years before that, will leave to take a similar job in Boston.

On Friday, WFXT Fox 25 announced Leyden will be its sports director, starting around baseball's Opening Day.

"The most difficult decision I've ever made, without question," Leyden told The Detroit News this week. "If I could pick up my job in Detroit and move it to that location, I would have."

A lot of it came down to family.

Leyden, 42, is a native of Westport, Conn., and has two sisters who live in the Boston area. His parents, both in their 70s, still live in the house he grew up in, and with two young daughters, Dahlia, 8, and Olivia, almost 7, it made sense for Leyden and his wife, Nicole, to jump at the opportunity.

Nicole's family is from Westchester, New York.

Leyden has covered just about everything there is to cover in the Detroit sports scene, first as a reporter and then as sports director, taking over after Don Shane's retirement in 2012.

"We got to see so many things, from Rose Bowls to Final Fours to World Series to Stanley Cup Finals; the whole combination, that's rare," Leyden said.

"It doesn't exist in a lot of markets."

One of them where a lot of that does exist, of course, is Boston, which has the freshly-minted Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the 2013 World Series champion Boston Red Sox, and the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

One thing missing in Boston, though, is a robust college scene.

And that, Leyden said, is a bummer.

"It does not have a major college sports footprint," said Leyden, himself a graduate of Boston College. "I'm definitely gonna miss that. Having Michigan and Michigan State, people take that for granted here. I'm not gonna fool anybody and say BC is Michigan or Michigan State."

After graduating from Boston College, Leyden spent four years working for the NFL and two years for the NHL in New York. He then spent four years at WFMZ in Allentown, Pennsylvania -- a town that was the the title subject of a Billy Joel hit, and Leyden is a big Billy Joel fan.

He came to Detroit in October 2004, and has made a remarkable impact, with his sharpness in reporting, and his top-tier interviewing skills.

Leyden's won a variety of awards for his work in Detroit, including 10 Emmys. He's been nominated 23 times.

"It's a great job," Leyden said of his time in Detroit.

The staff at WXYZ has been hit hard by recent word of departures, first by the announcement that morning anchor Vic Faust is leaving, and then by the news from Leyden, who also hosts Lions gameday shows, was pivotal in the launch of Sunday morning's "Sports Cave" and has helped make the department younger and fresher -- key in this era of social media -- with the hirings of Galli and Justin Rose.

Leyden in a relatively short time grew a big following here, but had no bigger admirers than his coworkers -- in and out of sports.

"Literally everybody in the building knows Tom and calls Tom a friend," said Galli, who while in college at Marquette was an intern under Leyden for two summers before he was hired full-time in 2011. "You can't really say that about a sports department that operates in kind of an isolated system.

"I don't know if I'll ever meet anybody with as much work ethic and creativity combined. The amount of great ideas he had far exceeded anybody I ever worked with."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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