KAZ’S KORNER

Four years ago, my grandson Logan Smith found out at West Point that every
first-year Plebe must participate in a competitive event.
He called me and said he decided to participate on the men’s boxing team. I
reminded him that he was a heavyweight and may have to face 6-8, 300-pound opponents
built like gorillas.
I told him his best sport was baseball and convinced him to walk on as a pitcher.
The only advice I gave him was to throw hard and throw strikes.
Logan must have heeded my advice because he was the only one out of some 25
walk-ons to make the team.
And because he was big and strong and threw strikes, he was a member of the
Army Black Knights’ bullpen and was used quite frequently for the past three years.
This fall pitching coach Jamie Pinzino recommended that he should become a
starter because the entire 35-man squad had only seven seniors and he was named as a
team captain for the 2020 Army baseball team.
Logan pitched well enough during the January intra-squad games on West Point’s
indoor football field that last Monday he was named the starter for Friday’s season-
opening game at Durham, N.C. against the No. 15-ranked Duke Blue Devils which in
baseball lingo means he is the Army pitching staff’s ace.
The husky right-hander rose to the occasion and matched zeroes with Duke ace
Bryce Jarvis during the first two innings.
Army scored a run in the top of the third on a mis-played fly ball that netted the
game’s first run. The Black Knights added another run in the fourth on a successful
squeeze bunt.
Logan’s job now was to protect that slender lead and he did it perfectly, leaving
the game after seven inning s with the score still 2-0. He wanted to pitch the eighth but
Head Coach Jim Foster convinced Logan that 94 pitches were plenty for a first outing.
Logan gave up only a second-inning single that the outfielder almost caught,
walked only one, hit one on the shirtsleeve and struck out 10. He faced just three batters
over the minimum of 21 in his seven-inning stint.
His relief gave up a run in the bottom of the eighth and his roommate Harry
Flannery came in to get the game’s final out, securing the 2-1 upset victory and Logan’s
first win as a starting pitcher for Army.
Ironically, 59 years ago I started my first game as a sophomore at McNeese State
against a good Nicholls State team in Thibodeau, La. I also pitched a one-hit shutout, but
in nine innings, for my first collegiate victory with 12 strikeouts.
I had a seven-run cushion to work with and didn’t have nearly the pressure on me
that Logan had Friday night.
I called Logan Friday night just a few minutes before his bed check. “I had all of
my pitches (fastball, curve, slider, cutter and change-up) working tonight and was hitting
my spots consistently,” he said. “I used my fastball as my strikeout pitch and had the
Duke hitters off-balance all game. Most of my fastballs were clocked at 89 to 90 mph.”

Unfortunately, Duke showed why it was No. 15 by nipping Army 9-8 Saturday by
scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning and then shutting out the West Pointers
7-0 on Sunday.
Army travels to College Station for a three-game series this weekend. Logan is
expected to pitch Friday night against Texas A&M ace left-hander Asa Lacy.
Wife Susan and I plan to spend the weekend in Aggieland and wish we were part
of the Smith clan who have tickets right behind home plate to watch Logan pitch.
But we will have to sit in the nosebleed section down the right field line, not
realizing we couldn’t buy tickets at the gate like we have watching all other Army games
in Texas and Louisiana.
However, we are still looking forward to a fun weekend.
KWICKIES…The XFL has done fairly well after two weeks of operation. ESPN
reported Monday on its First Take show that the league has contacted former Heisman
Trophy winner Tim Tebow to see if he would be interested in joining the league. But
Tebow is under contract to the New York Mets and is in spring training.
In Sunday’s NBA All-Star game Team LeBron slipped past Team Gannis 157-
155 when the format was revised to sudden-death, next-basket-wins finish. Anthony
Davis was fouled and made his free throws giving Team LeBron the victory.
Australian Adam Scott shot 70 on Sunday to win the PGA Tour Genesis
Invitational by two strokes over favorite Matt Kuchar, Sung Kang and Scott Brown.
Tiger Woods, who was never in contention, finished dead last of the golfers who made
the cut.
San Diego State downed Boise State 72-55 to up its record to 26-0 and remain the
only team undefeated in Division I. The Aztecs were ranked No. 4 in last week’s AP
College Basketball Poll.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were victims of the “cheating scandals” by the
Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox claim both teams “stole” the World Series from
them in 2017 and 2018. The also claim that in 2017 Astros’ star Jose Altuve “stole” the
American League MVP from Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge. All his Astros’ teammates
knew that Altuve refused to participate in the “garbage-can-clanging program.”
JUST BETWEEN US…Now that spring training is in full swing, everybody and
their brother has something to say about the Houston Astros fiasco of electronically
stealing the catcher’s signals of the opposing team. One comment appeared recently from
former Chicago White Sox ace Jack McDowell who claims his team had a sign-stealing
system back in the 1980’s. “I’m gonna whistleblow this now because I’m getting tired of
this crap. Tony La Russa is the one who put it in. He was also the head, the first team of
all people doing steroids as the Athletics’ manager. Yet he still is in the game making
half a million after joining the LA Angels in November as senior adviser of baseball
operations.” ESPN reported the Angels did not respond to a request for a comment from
La Russa.