FIU opens its 2018 baseball season this weekend against visiting Missouri with two highly anticipated debuts, both by the same player — Logan Allen as the starting first baseman Friday and Allen as a starting pitcher Saturday.
Allen, a freshman from Orange City’s University High, was named The Daytona Beach News Journal’s Player of the Year all three times in his three-year varsity career.
In two of those years, he won his state semifinal matchup as a starting pitcher only to have his University team lose in the championship game. And in his final high school game, he beat Miami Palmetto 4-0 in the 2017 state semifinal, pitching a no-hitter, slugging a homer and driving in all four runs.
Allen walked just one batter in that game, losing the hitter on a 3-2 pitch.
“He was a good umpire away from a perfect game,” said Doug Allen, his father. “The pitch should’ve been called. Maybe it was up a bit.”
Frank Martello, who coached Logan at University, said Allen got calls from major-league teams interested in picking him in the third and fourth rounds of this past June’s MLB draft.
But when financial terms couldn’t be reached, FIU became the clear choice. The Baltimore Orioles drafted Allen in the 16th round, which was largely ceremonial because the slot value of that pick was not going to be enough to make a deal.
So Allen, a 4.0 student in high school who is interested in studying criminal justice, joined the Panthers program, putting pro baseball on hold until he’s eligible again in 2020.
“My family and I felt that at this point it’s better to come to school, mature as a player, physically and mentally,” Allen said. “I can take a crack [at pro ball] in three years and hope for the best.”
Allen, listed at 6-0 and 180 pounds but perhaps closer to 5-11, 190, is a lefty pitcher and a righty hitter. He isn’t very big, he isn’t a power hitter or a power pitcher.
But Martello compared his pitching style to Hall of Fame lefty Tom Glavine, who was known for his pinpoint control and command.
Allen throws a fastball, changeup and slider and usually works ahead in the count. His fastball ranges from 88 to 90 mph but can power up to 92 on occasion.
“He can throw all three pitches for strikes at any time,” Martello said. “And he’s sneaky fast.”
Allen comes from a baseball family. His father was a catcher at Hillsdale College, an NAIA school in Michigan. Allen’s older brother, Hunter, is a senior at Alabama State, where he was the first-team All-SWAC catcher in 2016.
Martello said Hunter was one of the smartest catchers he’s ever coached, and Doug credits his older son for Logan’s success.
“Logan always had to play up to Hunter,” Doug Allen said. “Hunter pushed him hard.”
FIU coach Mervyl Melendez has known Logan since he was 4 years old. Allen and Melendez’s son, MJ, who is now in the Kansas City Royals organization as a catcher, played together on travel ball teams, including the Central Florida Bobcats and the MBA Pride, both based in Daytona Beach.
Those relationships proved crucial when it came time for Melendez to recruit Allen, and now here they are, coach and player, two key parts of FIU’s 2018 team.
Allen hopes to emulate other collegians who have doubled as hitters and pitchers, most notably John Olerud at Washington State in the late 1980s.
The past three years, Louisville’s Brendan McKay won the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year award, pitching and playing first base.
Playing as a pitcher/hitter in college is exceptionally difficult because of the time and demands needed to be outstanding in each endeavor.
Allen is determined to give it a shot, but he’s singularly focused on winning as opposed to individual accomplishments.
“I know everyone on our team is excited to show what we’re about,” Allen said. “We’re really young, and that can be a blessing because we have some years to grow together.”