SPOTLIGHT: In love with his glove

FLASHIN’ LEATHER: Logan McLeod, Tech’s always cheerful third baseman and CUSA’s Defensive Player of the Year, is also fourth on his team in batting average and second in on-base percentage.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Conference USA Baseball’s Defensive Player of the Year drives a Marucci, custom made last year.

He used to drive a Wilson A2000. Favored it bigtime. But a friend broke in the Marucci over the summer. All summer.

True friend.

“I like it pretty good,” said Logan McLeod, third baseman for Louisiana Tech’s CUSA Tournament Champion Bulldogs and the proud owner of three or four gloves. “Always been a big glove guy. Just always loved gloves.

“My defense has always been pretty consistent. I know I can do that every time,” he said. “But hitting, that’s pretty hard. I’d rather see ground balls. Love those.”

He’s made just four errors in 138 chances (.971), been a part of eight double plays, robbed a bunch of batters of a bunch of base hits.

But he almost didn’t play this year.

“Honestly, I didn’t know if I really wanted to,” said McLeod, who started one game as a freshman and two last year as he played behind a couple of All-Americans in Hunter Wells and Taylor Young. “But the coaches told me that ‘if we’re going to be good this year, we need you in the lineup and to be consistent every day.’”

He’s started all 61 games this spring for the 42-19 Bulldogs. Number 62 comes Friday against Dallas Baptist in the NCAA’s Austin Regional.

He was at shortstop in the fall; transfer Wade Elliott was at third and Young at second. But late in the fall, coach Lane Burroughs made the change to Young at short, Elliott at second and McLeod at third “and when we made that move,” Burroughs said, “it’s almost like our whole team clicked.”

“I was upset at first,” said McLeod, the oldest of three baseball-playing brothers from Sour Lake, Texas. “I’d played shortstop since I was 13. But now I like it, probably more than short. It’s all reaction at third; everything happens really fast.”

“He’s 5-10, 180 or so, and way back, never did I think he’d be playing third base at a high level,” Burroughs said. “But he’s a great example of a guy who just kept showing up. He didn’t quit. It didn’t work out at shortstop but he found his job at third base; I don’t know if there’s a better one in our league.

“And,” Burroughs said, “he’s gotten some huge hits for us.”

The ‘huge-est’ was an infield single to lead off the bottom of the ninth in Sunday’s league title game. Riggs Easterling pinch-ran and scored the deciding run in the 9-8 win.

As McLeod walked to the plate with the game tied at 8, his thoughts were on, of all things, hitting coach Mitch Gaspard.

“I didn’t want Coach G to be mad at me,” he said. “I was going up there swinging. I had to get on.”

He hit a 1-1 fastball to the shortstop’s backhand and beat it out, something he’s done routinely. His on-base percentage (.418) is second best on the team to Young’s (.505). He and Young are tied at 42 strikeouts, the least on the team for any player with at least 200 at-bats. He’s third on the team in walks (32) and leads a team in HBP’s with 18, which is saying something on a team that leads its opponents, 99-63, in that bruising category.

Batting eighth, he’s given pitchers plenty to think about.

But it’s him and that souped-up Marucci that made the league pay attention. The Defensive Player of the Year award left him a bit “in shock, really,” he said. It was something he found out in the most modern of ways; the team was on the bus to the league tournament in Hattiesburg, Miss., last Tuesday when he saw the announcement … on Twitter.

“That’s something,” McLeod said to himself.

A surprise? Maybe. But it fits him. Fits him like a glove.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech Athletics