Once the lights have come on and the fans have filled the seats, Logan Shore will take the mound, baseball in hand and a slew of confidence with it, ready to start the season for the Florida Gators.
The sophomore right-handed pitcher will be slipping back into the role he earned a season ago as the Kevin O’Sullivan’s Friday night starter. But for this Coon Rapids, Minnesota native, the biggest difference now will be that this role is expected. The same could not be said for his expectations heading into his freshman season.
“Coming from Minnesota you’re hearing things like ‘you’re not gonna play’ and ‘there’s Florida kids that are better than you’ and hearing all that kind of stuff,” Shore said. So I guess I didn’t really have a lot of expectation for myself. I just came in and just tried to play hard and earn a spot, and I guess just working hard and trying to earn a spot and trying to help the team win pays off in the end.”
The Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year really had people telling him he wasn’t going to play? “Yea, yea…just people around,” he said.
Despite earning numerous accolades in high school, Shore had no choice but to believe them, knowing what he did about the competition he was used to.
“The level of play, especially coming from Minnesota, some of the other Florida guys can tell you, they’re playing against other first rounder’s, and other guys that are going to big universities,” said Shore. “But in Minnesota you don’t have a lot of guys that are going to the SEC and high in the draft. So it’s definitely a step up coming from Minnesota and high school ball especially to pitch at Florida and to pitch against some of the best teams in the country.”
But play he did, and play well.
By the end of his first campaign in Gainesville, Shore had started 15 games, recorded 7 wins with 4 losses and a 2.16 ERA. That number was driven up with what Shore himself acknowledges as a disappointing postseason. His regular season ERA was just 2.08.
It’s those types of numbers that have his teammates throwing their full confidence behind the young pitcher.
“Very competitive”, explains Bobby Poyner. “You feel very comfortable when he’s getting the ball on a Friday night, you know it’s gonna be a low scoring game and I like it. I like having Logan out there. Great competitor and you feel like every time he goes to the mound you’re team has a great chance at winning.”
In fact, Poyner says Shore is one of the most competitive guys on the whole team because, “he never gives in, and he never backs down. It doesn’t matter who’s standing in the batter’s box, how big they are, how strong they are, what their resume is, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care. He’s gonna throw strike one, he’s gonna throw strike two and he’s gonna attack and fill up the zone and that’s all you can ask.”
He does all you can ask everywhere, according to Danny Young.
“Hard working, focused, he’s got great feel. He’s just a good kid I mean if you have an ideal person who’s just good on the field, off the field, good teammate, good in the classroom, he does a good job.”
Fellow pitcher Shaun Anderson, realizing what Logan was able to do in one year, has found a well of knowledge to draw from.
“I love Logan and he’s one of my good friends on the team”, Anderson says. “I always pick his brain about his experiences last year cause he was our ace last year; just ask him about his experiences and about how he attacks hitters as well. I mean he knows the game.”
His knowledge of the game is what draws the most comfort from his coach.
“He’s a very mature young man”, says Sully. “I think he understands the importance of being a number one starter and what goes into that. He’s a very sharp kid. He’s very intellectual. He knows what needs to happen on his end and I just kinda leave him alone.”
Leaving him alone obviously worked well a year ago.
He racked up a laundry list of awards:
• 2014 Perfect Game National Freshman of the Year
• 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year
• 2014 Louisville Slugger Third Team All-American
• 2014 Baseball America Freshman All-American
• 2014 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American
• 2014 NCBWA Freshman All-American
• 2014 Perfect Game Freshman All-American
• 2014 All-SEC First Team
• 2014 SEC All-Freshman Team
But now it’s a new year, with new expectations. Chosen as a preseason All-SEC player, Shore knows that all eyes will be on him as the Gators begin their 2015 run.
“It’s obviously pretty cool to see how last year ended up but I didn’t finish”, Shore admits. “Personally I didn’t finish the best last year so that’s gonna be something that obviously stays in my mind to fuel me for this season.”
And as Sully sends his new found ace to the mound for the Gators opener, it’ll be with the message to just stay calm and play his game that’s already proved to be winning.
“He doesn’t need to be superman, he just needs to be consistent like he always is. If he just goes out there and does his thing that’s gonna be plenty good enough.”