On Aug. 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley made landfall in Cayo Costa, Fla., a chain of barrier islands just west of Fort Myers. The category 4 storm was the first hurricane in Florida to top a category 2 ranking in almost 20 years, and did so with surface winds of up to 150 mph and waves surging up around 6 feet. After moving through the Sunshine State, it stayed mostly out to sea along the East Coast, but by then the damage had been done: $15.82 billion worth of destruction, making Charley the second-most costly hurricane in U.S. history at the time.
One of the storm’s many victims was the Port Charlotte Little League, a set of teams that played its games about 45 minutes north of Fort Myers. Their fields were ravaged by the onslaught of rain and wind, and after three more hurricanes that September walloped Florida for more than $8 billion each, those tasked with leading the recovery that winter had their hands full.
But then, the Boston Red Sox, still basking in their glorious World Series run of 2004, came down South for the spring. A small gang of the Sox’ biggest “Idiots”—a light-hearted label adopted by centerfielder Johnny Damon to describe the squad’s laid-back demeanour—had agreed to appear on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a show that cast five openly gay experts to help straight men improve their cultural know-how. As part of the filming, the five men and the five players—Damon, Kevin Millar, Doug Mirabelli, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek—teamed up to fundraise for the league. In total, their efforts raised $100,000 to cover the costs of rebuilding the fields. But they didn’t stop there.
The Little Leaguers at the time were invited to come play with the pros at City of Palms Park, the Red Sox’ spring training facility at the time. One of those lucky kids was Logan Hoggarth, an 11-year-old utility player who would eventually become a staple in the lineup of Boston College baseball. But back then, he was just psyched to get on a field with players he’d grown up watching on TV.
“I was little, so it was the coolest thing I’d ever experienced in my life ’til then,” Hoggarth recalled 12 years later.
He didn’t get to take any cuts against Wakefield’s famous dancing knuckleball, but does remember the pitcher throwing him some soft toss while Varitek caught. More than anyone, though, he remembers Damon—“the caveman” with that crazy long hair.
“He was just the coolest guy,” Hoggarth said. “Wakefield, Varitek, and Damon—they were so nice … the very least I could do is support them in whatever they do.”
Hoggarth has never forgotten that day, nor their efforts that got the Little League program back up and running. He has been a “Royal Rooter” ever since, a loyal, diehard fan of the team that enabled him to keep playing the sport he loved. That attraction even factored into his initial decision to attend BC. He was excited not just for the close proximity to regular season home games, but even more for the opportunity the Eagles have to face the Red Sox in an exhibition game each spring—one of the most special games of the season for him, in large part because his family can make the games.
“It was unreal, because I had all my family there,” Hoggarth said. “All my friends, all my family watching me play big leaguers was just the coolest experience ever. People dream of doing that, and I actually got to live it.”
Despite being likely the only freshman on the BC team with the distinction of having already played on the same field as the Red Sox, he never really brought it up with his teammates, that year or any of the four he has gotten to face the Major League club. More than anything, he seemed confused by the idea of sharing the story without being asked about it. In his mind, it was a very cool event that stuck out in his childhood, but happened long ago. Why brag about that?
Then again, Hoggarth isn’t one to brag about anything, really. That’s not who he is.
Four years before Hoggarth got his first day on the big, big field, he was just a small, athletic kid from North Dakota. His father, Kevin, recalls him swinging bats and clubs ever since he was 2 years old in Jamestown, N.D., his hometown, while Logan especially remembers playing baseball and hockey. But his dad loved baseball, so Logan became a baseball kid.
The move down South came just as he began to really get going in Little League. Hoggarth wasn’t excited about having to leave all his friends and family, but his father got a better job and his mother wanted to reach warmer weather, so to Florida they went. It wasn’t an easy transition for him at first, but the move did have one immediate benefit: he now had the chance to play baseball year round.
He took advantage of the weather and the resources he had, consistently going out with his dad to hit extra balls. Kevin’s enthusiasm for the game rubbed off on Logan, who credits his dad for instilling in him a passion for baseball. But Kevin also knew his limits—he had never played the game himself, and though he coached Logan at a young level, his expertise soon paled in comparison to the seasoned coaches of the competitive Florida travel teams. Instead of becoming a Friday Night Tykes parent, as so many are in Southern youth ball, Kevin took a step back and let his son do his own thing.
“Having your dad yell at you during the game, that’s not very fun,” Hoggarth said.
More than anything, this move from North Dakota ousted Hoggarth from the comfort of his original safety net, something he has come to appreciate and credits for his development as a younger player. But he has also continued to adapt since then. It gave him the confidence to play up with older kids as a teenager on travel teams for most of his life. It also gave him the drive to make the move up to Boston for college, despite having established a decade’s worth of connections in North Port, Fla.
“Those opportunities would allow me to grow on my own, would allow me to find myself, deal with problems on my own,” Hoggarth said. “Not having the safety of being home, or being near home, or calling mom and saying ‘come get my laundry.’ I have to go do my laundry myself.”
One of those more recent problems came during his freshman year at BC. Baseball head coach Mike Gambino, then in his third season with the team, wasn’t impressed with the defense he inherited. To address his concerns, especially the infield defense, he recruited a bunch of shortstops—the position that arguably requires the most defensive skill and athleticism—with varying skillsets. Then he’d spread them out across the field and see what stuck.
It was perhaps the earliest step of Gambino’s ideal vision to have his players be exceptionally versatile. While junior Johnny Adams has owned short for the past three seasons, Joe Cronin, a guy with great hands and the potential for power, has made the shift to be an everyday first and third baseman. Gabriel Hernandez, a quick, switch-hitting player, has found playing time both at third base and left field. Nick Sciortino, a slower high school shortstop with a strong arm and a high baseball IQ, has been the Eagles’ starting catcher for each of the past three seasons.
Hoggarth, unlike some other guys, didn’t make that switch the moment he arrived. In year one, he was listed as an infielder. He played third base all fall, but started his first few collegiate games as a designated hitter. His first start in the field was at third—he played both third and shortstop as a high schooler—and for a good chunk of the season he floated between starts at DH and the left side of the infield. But then, one of BC’s regular outfielders went down with an injury, and someone needed to take his place.
Gambino approached the freshman about making a start in left.
“He was a good infielder, but we had better infield defenders than him,” Gambino said. “But he could run, he had a strong arm, and he could swing it, so he slides out as a way to keep him in the lineup and give him a better matchup for his skillset.”
Hoggarth felt another safety net being pulled out from underneath him, but he was ready to accept anything that would get him in the lineup.
The thing was, he’d never played so much as an inning in the outfield.
“It was the scariest time of my life,” Hoggarth said. “It was so foreign … The first ball that was hit to me, I must have done three full 360s around before I caught the ball.”
After his premiere—a windy day against Georgia State at Al Lang Stadium—Hoggarth continued as an everyday player in left. With the help of assistant coach Greg Sullivan, BC’s primary outfield coach, Hoggarth became more acclimated to the wild, grassy expanse beyond the comfort of the infield dirt.
Primarily, he had to learn to read the ball off the bat. As an infielder, he’d felt comfortable making the instinctual plays on ground balls and line drives, but the outfield works differently. With far more distance separating the moments of the actual hit and the point where the ball is due to land back down, there’s time for it to naturally tail away, get pushed in any direction by the wind, or get lost in the glare of a sunny day. An outfielder has to recognize spin of the bat, take into account the external conditions, and take the most accurate route to position himself for a catch.
In other words, if you haven’t gone through extensive practice, it’s pretty hard.
“I thought, ‘It’s just outfield, you go out there, and it’ll be easy,’” Hoggarth said. “You go from playing infield, pretty comfortable, think you’re pretty good at this, and then you go to outfield and you just get put in your place.”
He was ready to accept the challenge, as he’s always seemed to be when a new obstacle forces him to veer off a comfortable path. Per the advice of Gambino, Hoggarth played both outfield and third that summer. When he arrived back at BC in the fall, however, he made a decision for both his own competitive nature of staying in the lineup and to help fill the needs of the team—he was going to fully commit to being an outfielder.
Jeff Burke is a prankster.
You can sort of tell it from just looking at him (or his Twitter feed). The former BC pitcher, who was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 32nd round of the MLB Draft this past summer, won’t hesitate to have some fun—even if it comes at the expense of his friends.
When Burke entered BC in fall of 2012, he was randomly paired with Hoggarth on Upper Campus, almost all the way in the back corner in Fenwick 118. The two got along great from the start, despite Hoggarth’s slight OCD and Burke’s sloppy tendencies. With their athletic schedules as they were, they spent a majority of their days together, and then continued to room together for three and a half years, until Burke signed with the Giants, and graduated early from BC at the end of last fall. He’s now in the Arizona League. When they lived together, Burke liked to mess with his roomie, most often by scaring Hoggarth as he took his notoriously long showers.
“I don’t think he appreciated that,” Burke said, laughing.
Hoggarth wasn’t always the victim—one time, while one of their other roommates was away, Hoggarth helped Burke move all his stuff, including his bed, into their common room.
Ultimately, the good-hearted pranks helped the two solidify their bond, which to Hoggarth has become as tight as he’s ever felt with a friend.
“I talk to him all the time, I Snapchat him all the time,” Hoggarth said. “He has become my best friend. I go to him for everything.”
Coming from Hoggarth, that friendship truly means something. If he has remained loyal in rooting for the Red Sox in the past 12 years, he’s even more committed to his family and friends.
“He’s one of those guys that if you called and said, ‘Hey, I’m in a bind,’ he’d hop on a flight to wherever you were,” Burke said. “He’s as good of a buddy as you could ask for.”
The goal is to get out.
At BC, there are certain practices in place for student-athletes to help keep them afloat with a challenging university workload. One of these rules requires that athletes attend six hours of study hall a week as freshmen, which aims to provide them with a feasible balance of their academic and athletic schedules. After the first semester, athletes have the chance to opt out of these required times—but only if they can reach (and maintain) a GPA threshold.
For baseball, that means keeping a 2.8 cumulative GPA or reaching a 3.0 GPA the previous semester. That may seem easy for someone like Hoggarth, who led his high school team with a 3.9, but handling a college athletic schedule is different. It requires planning, focus, drive to commit to doing well in class—not to mention having to listen to his teammates give him a hard time for studying so much.
“He’s done really well academically,” Burke said. “As much as people gave him a hard time freshman year, he’s one of the few guys who got out of study hours and stayed out of study hours on our team.”
Hoggarth, who has kept well above a 3.0, had the independence to get work done when he needed to.
Of course, that commitment has reached the ballfield as well. After hitting .400 his senior year of high school, the tough reality of ACC pitching caught up with him.
“We used to give him a hard time because when he first came in, he couldn’t hit a [collegiate] breaking ball,” Burke said. “So we’d always throw him breaking balls.”
In general, Hoggarth feels he spent his first two years in college learning how to hit. He had the tools and ability, but he didn’t really have an approach heading into each at bat—against lower levels of pitching, he’d never needed one. But now that the pitching was good—really good—he needed to learn how to attack with a gameplan heading in.
With the help of volunteer hitting coach Jimmy Van Ostrand, who has since relocated to Arizona, Hoggarth has developed into a hitter with a confident mental strategy for every game. In one basic approach, which may differ depending on scouting reports, the results of pregame hitters meetings, or most likely using his own eyes to see and adjust, Hoggarth will plan to attack the fastball and “spit” on the curveball. This not only increases his likelihood of correctly timing the pitch, but can also project a strong level of confidence to a pitcher who observes him comfortably taking a pitch that might have been intended to fool him.
“That really helped me stay consistent throughout the season,” Hoggarth said. “I never really got into a slump [last year]. If I went 0-4, I got back on track the next day. It never really continued.”
That consistency has shown on the stats sheets. After batting a measly .189 in 49 games his freshman year, he improved to .239 sophomore year and then spot-on .300 last season—second on the team only to Chris Shaw, probably the best BC baseball player ever. His average has regressed down to .281 through 32 games this season, but he has already knocked in more RBIs this season (15) than last season (12), despite having just about half the number of at bats. He has made just one error in the outfield, and has launched the first two home runs of his college career—the first, a grand slam in the opening weekend against Northern Illinois, and the second a three-run shot in the Beanpot last week.
Hoggarth’s individual improvement has been a reflection of the growing program around him, which, in part due to his play on the field and the support of the guys playing with him, is on its best pace in the six-year Gambino era.
“I’m gonna miss coaching that kid a lot,” Gambino said. “He cares about his teammates, he cares about his team. He’s a special kid.”
Not everyone can make it to the Bigs.
It’s a simple fact, and one some players accept far sooner than others. With its 40 long rounds and a plethora of Minor League teams, baseball has the highest percentage of high school athletes that will eventually make it to the pros—but that is just 0.5 percent. Making and staying on one of the 30 big league teams is far harder.
As a strong athlete who managed to hit .300 against some of the best collegiate competition in the country, Hoggarth still has a chance of playing baseball at the next level, but he has recognized the odds against him.
His ambition and foresight led him to search for a place to intern last year. With the busy schedules of spring and summer ball, baseball guys don’t have time to take on any traditional internships. But Hoggarth managed to get a position this past fall with Athlete Network, a company that essentially serves as a LinkedIn for athletes, both professional or recreational.
Hoggarth was the ambassador at BC, promoting the network on campus. He met with Director of Athletics Brad Bates along the way as part of his job to get athletes signed up with the site, and by the end of the semester finished in the top 20 percent among interns across the country, ranked by performances on tasks.
“Every week, the rankings came out and you would get to see where you were,” he said. “If you were down, you were like, ‘Dang, I have to do better.’ If you were up, you were like ‘Hey, I’m top dog.’”
By finishing in the top 20 percent, Hoggarth’s resume was sent to employers on site, a good network moving forward in the future.
“Whoever hires that kid, it’s going to be a great hire,” Gambino said. “Logan and I believe he’ll do something with dealing with people, whether it’s sales or managing people, cause he’s a really good people person.”
There’s no reason to believe that he won’t—Hoggarth has accomplished pretty much everything he has put his mind to in the past. Even at a younger age, he had a knack for following through on his word.
When Hoggarth was 14 or 15, he got a picture of Fenway Park with a set of fake tickets. Back then, he said that one day he would play at Fenway—a promise that he nearly fulfilled his freshman year, when he was at but didn’t play in the Beanpot. Last spring, it officially came true when he took the field in the Beanpot, getting the start in left field against the University of Massachusetts. He went 2-3 with a double and a walk in that game, scoring the insurance run in a 2-0 win—his first Beanpot win.
That’s a story he said he has never told anyone, which just says all the more about him. But he doesn’t need to talk about himself for people to recognize his impact on those around him.
“He was a great guy on the field, and a great guy off the field,” said Rich Carroll, an assistant coach of Hoggarth’s high school team. “He was always helping people out, trying to make other people better, and that’s why people love him.”
After the game, Logan’s mother kept a pair of tickets from the game and put them with the old picture in his room. Right where they belonged.
Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Editor