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‘Ultimate teammate’ Logan Wyatt fires up the bats for Louisville baseball
“I think he can be one of the greatest first basemen in all of college baseball.”
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The pitch was at the top of the strike zone, a carrot dangled all too easily in front of Logan Wyatt.
Wyatt’s bat connected with the two-out, 2-2 pitch, and the rich, crisp thwack immediately drew attention as heads snapped to follow the ball high and deep over the right-field wall at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The grand slam, the first of Wyatt’s college career, left a lasting impression as Louisville beat NC State 8-2, but there was something equally gripping about the sound of the ball meeting the barrel.
It was that sound that had made Wyatt’s coaches at North Bullitt High School gape at each other in amazement when he stepped into the batting cage, that unmistakable tenor of power and speed that led the University of Louisville to designate the largely untested sophomore as their cleanup hitter.
And if Wyatt gets his way, it will be a sound fans hear more and more this season, the electrifying sound of a star being born on the diamond.
‘I’m going to get you a home run’
Logan Wyatt was barely 3 years old when his tender, unabating love affair with baseball began.
“I knew he was right-handed but I was going to make him bat left, and the first time I gave him a bat he held it correctly for a left-handed batter,” said his father, Craig Wyatt. “He’s never really stopped since then.”
Shortly after starting school, Logan Wyatt signed up for a T-ball league in Okolona. His father mowed front lawns in the summertime, and Wyatt toted a tee along and spent afternoons swinging away in strangers’ backyards. He was hitting balls out of the T-ball park at age 6, smacked his first real home run at 9 and attended his first Louisville game at 10.
“My parents always come to games and Logan would always tell my dad, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to hit it out of the park today. I’m going to get you a home run,'” said Kelly Wyatt, Logan’s mother. ”And he did.”
To this day, his mother said, Logan Wyatt walks through the house and swings his arm like he’s swinging a bat. He might be a case study for the “practice makes perfect” cliche; after starting just once for Louisville in 18 games as a freshman, Wyatt has started all 36 games this season at first base and leads the Cardinals in batting average, hits, RBIs, walks and total bases.
“I think last year not playing that much and struggling mentally and physically, I think it helped prepare me for this season,” Wyatt said. ”Everybody was studs in high school and all that, and then coming in and sitting out and watching kind of opens your eyes and kind of humbles you. You come in and there’s Brendan McKay, Drew Ellis, all these dudes and it’s just like, ‘Whoa.’ It opens your eyes to what this program’s really about.”
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell acknowledged that the bar was set high for Wyatt, who switched over from playing third base last season but said the infielder, hitting .339, has risen to the challenge.
“What I love about Logan and this group – we use the phrase ‘Be professional’ and he’s professional,” McDonnell said. ”It’s fun for me, seeing a kid from North Bullitt having the success that he’s had. We love when local kids come here, develop and now become household names across the country.”
The sound of a slugger
For Brian Wise, it started with the sound.
Here was the supposed freshman phenom Wise had heard so much about, showing up for his first batting practice at North Bullitt. “What you hear is not always reality so I just thought, ‘Let’s just see,'” the coach said.
Wyatt swung and there it was, the full-bodied thwack that hummed through the air and caught onlookers with hearts in their throats.
“If you walked in here right now and he was in the cage you would know it without looking,” Wise said. “There was a sound that the ball and bat made that you don’t hear with 99 percent of your players.”
Outdoor batting practice meant Wyatt launching balls onto the tennis courts behind left field and sending screamers over the right-field wall toward the school, a performance that froze football players headed to their cars in their tracks, transfixed by the rhythmic swing of the bat and almost melodic thump of barrel on leather.
The motion was briefly interrupted on the first Saturday of his freshman season when he broke the hook of the hamate bone in his hand while swinging on a cold day in Jeffersontown. The injury is common among professional baseball players, usually caused by pressure from too many batting repetitions wearing down the bone. Most players develop the injury in their 20’s, but Wyatt’s persistent swinging put him ahead of the curve.
Wyatt missed most of his freshman season but still practiced with his cast on and returned with a vengeance to the Eagles’ lineup for the next three years, receiving first team all-state honors each season.
“I just kept going,” he said. “When there are tough times, you can’t sit around and mope about it.”
He thrives on routine, on preparing himself mentally and physically for each day. Wyatt’s mother and father both used the word “focused” to describe their oldest son, who after being tasked with leading his high school program was also faced with mounting expectations at Louisville.
“I think to be human there’s always a little bit of pressure, but I think he’s confident in what he can do,” Craig Wyatt said. ”I think there are probably bigger crowds in a big program. There’s a lot more work and training. So there is pressure, but I think he knows he can handle it.”
The ultimate teammate
The bases were loaded and the count was 3-0, but Kentucky pitcher Alec Maley was not about to give Wyatt the opportunity for a grand slam.
So when the next pitch came outside, Wyatt quietly took his base as teammate Zeke Pinkham trotted home to score Louisville’s third run in an eventual 8-2 win.
It was one of Wyatt’s season-high four walks that game, as most teams have learned to pitch around the 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore. Wyatt’s 39 walks through 36 games rank in the top 5 in Division I baseball.
When his mother informed him of that stat in a text message the day after the Kentucky game, Wyatt simply responded, “Thanks.”
He likes to get the barrel on the ball but isn’t fazed if he doesn’t get the chance.
Junior infielder Devin Mann said Wyatt’s reputation as a “mentally solid kid” has been invaluable to Louisville’s offense.
“He could strike out on three pitches and then get up and hit a home run,” Mann said.
Wyatt remembers throwing the occasional helmet out of anger when he was in grade school, but has since learned to keep his emotions under the surface no matter the circumstances. He didn’t celebrate when he hit either of his two home runs this season, the first of his college career. He does not whoop or clap for an RBI or grit his teeth after drawing a walk. The most you’ll get out of him is, maybe, a slight upward curl of the lip.
“I try to stay pretty even-keel,” Wyatt said. “I’m not big on showing things like that. I think sometimes emotions can help motivate you because I love the game, but most of the time you can’t get in your own head.”
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For what Wise called a “superstar” of high school baseball, one who ended his prep career as North Bullitt’s career leader in home runs and RBIs, Wyatt was humble and introverted. After an indoor practice on a cold and rainy afternoon Wyatt’s freshman year, the coach looked around and couldn’t find his young slugger. He poked his head outside and found Wyatt waiting alone.
“I said, ‘Logan, you can wait in here. You don’t have to sit in rain,'” Wise said. “He goes, ‘Nah, I’m good coach, they’re almost here.’ So he sits out in the rain, almost like he was embarrassed and shy being around the older guys. Almost like, ‘I’m not sure I belong yet.'”
By his final few years at North Bullitt, Wyatt started to come out of his shell. He led the Eagles by example on the field and with a quiet goofiness off it. In hotel rooms at tournaments, he and his teammates played a WWE-style wrestling game, jumping from one bed to another. “The ultimate teammate,” Wise called him.
A standout among the Cardinals’ talented sophomore group, Wyatt has now emerged as one of the leaders on a young Louisville team where underclassmen make up more than half of the roster. He is as much a calming presence in the dugout as he is in the infield.
“I like to keep the team morale up, keep everyone positive,” Wyatt said. ”I feel like only good things can happen from being positive, so I like to give them a boost of confidence.”
Even with his personal success, humility is still front and center for Wyatt. When he mentions the Friday night game against NC State, for which he was awarded the team shirt for a job well done, he doesn’t even use the words “grand slam.” Instead he mentions how he felt his four RBIs helped the team win.
“Logan wants to be great,” McDonnell said. “He leads by example, works extremely hard in the weight room, lives in that Hack Shack, loves to hit like all those guys do.”
Wyatt’s achievements at Louisville and in high school have granted him legendary status at North Bullitt, where Wise recently overheard a first-year player prodding experienced players for tales of the past.
“I hear him ask, ‘What was it like to play with Logan Wyatt?'” Wise said. ‘And I thought it was kind of cool that for guys that don’t know him and haven’t been around him he’s in this aura of ‘It’s crazy, what was it like to play with him?'”
It’s hard to oversell a kid who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in on-base percentage (.506) and doubles (16). Even so, McDonnell made sure to deliver the following assessment with the utmost sincerity.
“I challenge Logan,” McDonnell said. “I think he can be one of the greatest first basemen in all of college baseball.”
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