That Logan Michaels homer was a called shot: Sorta, kinda
Even Jeff Michaels will tell you that his son, Logan, doesn’t have a home-run swing. Actually, even Logan will tell you that.
“Yesterday a few of us were at lunch and a group of guys with a podcast came and sat down with us, were asking us questions. They asked me if I’m going to hit a home run tomorrow, and I said, I’d like to say yes. And the guy asked me how many home runs I’ve had all year. And I said none. It’s kind of funny. They asked me the question, and then it happens,” said Logan Michaels, who saved his first homer of the season for UVA’s opening game in the 2021 College World Series on Sunday.
The long ball put Virginia up 1-0 in the third. Michaels later added an RBI single that jumpstarted a four-run Cavalier seventh in what turned into a 6-0 win over Tennessee.
That it all went down on Father’s Day, with Jeff, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer back in 2018, in the stands, made it all the more special.
Jeff Michaels has, for now, at least, beaten back the cancer, though he acknowledges that pancreatic cancer is the kind that sort of “wants to come back.”
Jeff was diagnosed in the spring of 2018, after going to the doctor for what he thought was food poisoning.
Logan, a catcher, that summer, was preparing to transfer to UVA from Madison College, a juco powerhouse, which he had helped lead to an NJCAA Division II World Series appearance in 2018, hitting .413 that spring, after putting up a .437 batting average as a freshman in 2017.
By the summer, Jeff’s condition was getting to be such that Virginia coach Brian O’Connor wasn’t sure that Logan would make it to Charlottesville, and Logan only left for school home in DeForest, Wisc., at the encouragement of his parents, Jeff and Peg.
His first trip back home, at the end of September, “I remember getting home, and that weekend I was home, it was the sickest he’d been since he was sick,” Michaels said.
“I remember getting back on my flight to leave home, and I remember I cried all the way on my flight from Chicago to Charlottesville, just not wanting to go back and go home and be with my family and just help them,” he said. “I got back to school, and I remember I talked to our academic counselor, and we were talking. I just was, like, I don’t know if this is right for me right now. But at the same time, I’ve worked my whole life for this. Like, this is what I’ve wanted my whole life. I’ve worked for it really hard.
“So, it was just a really tough decision. Obviously, I’m so happy that I stayed here. I talk to my family a lot, too. And my dad was always, like, stay there, you’ll enjoy it. This is what you’ve been meant to do your whole life.”
Logan Michaels had a solid junior season in his first year at UVA in 2019, slashing .311/.380/.341, and he was on his way to a strong follow-up senior campaign last year, slashing .316/.403/.474 before the 2020 season was cut short by COVID-19.
The redshirt year granted by the NCAA to student-athletes due to the lost COVID year gave Michaels a second shot at a senior year – and one last chance to play in an NCAA Tournament.
From a numbers standpoint, Michaels’s offensive numbers haven’t been what they were the first year-plus – Michaels is hitting .255/.348/.333 this season – but his work managing the game from behind the plate has been a key for the Cavaliers during their improbable run to Omaha.
“He’s been our anchor behind the plate for two seasons now,” said starting pitcher Andrew Abbott, who put up six scoreless innings, with 10 strikeouts, in the Sunday win. “Guy just works really well with all the pitchers. He knows what the heck’s going on. And just he’s one of those guys that steps up in big ways in different scenarios – blocking pitches, throwing a guy out in a big spot.”
He often comes up big for his pitchers, and Abbott made clear that the staff and the rest of the clubhouse make sure to step up for Michaels when he needs to talk things through.
“Just trying to be friends, and to be able to listen,” Abbott said. “That’s the best thing you can do for somebody that’s had some hard times, is listen and understand what they’re going through, and figure out how to help them.
“I think baseball has helped him the most other than teammates,” Abbott said. “Just being out there, the freedom and knowing that his dad wanted him to play. That’s father/son special. That’s what every family needs, and just being here today, I know he loved it.
Michaels, prior to Sunday, had one career homer at UVA – Feb. 25, 2020, in an 8-5 win over William & Mary.
Now, of course, Michaels, who had five homers back at Madison College, will tell you that he routinely goes deep in batting practice.
To go deep on the big stage, with his father sitting in Section 108, a few rows up, celebrating, though, wow.
“When I hit that, I instantly, when it went over the fence, I started thinking about my dad, and it’s one of the most special moments we could share together,” Michaels said. “I was sitting in the dugout after it happened. I got pretty emotional. For him to be here, for what he went through in the past, just for him to be here and be able to see that, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Just a really special moment.
“There’s no words for it,” Michaels said. “Just for someone to bring him the home run ball and obviously for it to happen on Father’s Day at the College World Series, I mean, definitely a special moment for our family and for my dad and I.”
Story by Chris Graham