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Mudville: June 18, 2024 10:08 pm PDT

Logan Kensing

"There were a lot of people who were bigger than life – and that part of the game was so awesome.”

Through the 2023 season, only 23,115 people have made it to the major leagues. When you consider the millions and millions of kids who dreamed of wearing a big league uniform over the 150 years the sport has been in existence, the chances of realizing that dream are so infinitesimal.

Minor leaguers are as close as one can get to the majors and most of them don’t even make it to the show. The journey to the bigs usually takes years and you could do everything right and still never get the chance.

For pitcher Logan Kensing, his chance came way quicker than most who have played the game and came as a total surprise. There was also an assist from Mother Nature along the way as well.

In 2004, Hurricanes Ivan and Frances left the Florida Marlins with three September doubleheaders. Hurricane Charlie already had affected Kensing and his minor league career weeks before.

With the Marlins in a pennant race and the weather wreaking havoc on their pitching staff, the team reached down to High A Ball to pluck Kensing for his major league debut after completing just one full season in the minors.

The 2003 second round draft pick made three starts and appeared in five games just one year removed from Texas A&M. Over the next six seasons, he pitched in 134 major league games and another 114 in the minors before an injury looked like it might end his career.

Kensing missed the 2010 season before reporting back to the minors where he worked his way through three different organizations and three different minor league levels before returning to the majors three years later with the Colorado Rockies in 2013. He would pitch in 24 post-injury games before retiring in 2016.

He’s got a great story about his call up and an inspirational return to the majors after three seasons out of the bigs, so join us as we go Spitballin’ with Logan Kensing.

Thanks for joining us, Mr. Kensing! Looking forward to hearing your stories. Let’s start off by going back to your youth. What was baseball like growing up for you as a kid?

I grew up in a time where every kid played every sport and you were always outside unless it was raining. My parents were both coaches and teachers, so I spent a lot of time in gyms and tracks and fields. If I wasn’t with my dad, I was with my mom on a volleyball court. I gravitated more towards baseball and growing up in the south we basically had three teams we could watch: the Cubs on WGN, the Braves and sometimes the Yankees. Once a summer we’d drive to Houston to watch the Astros and sometimes we’d drive to Arlington to watch the Rangers. I remember the guys that were playing at that time like Billy Wagner, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Derek Bell. I probably got to watch Nolan Ryan pitch with Texas when I was young. I’d see Julio Franco and Pudge Rodriguez with the Rangers. My kids collect baseball cards now and they were looking at mine and said, “None of these guys play!” I had to tell them that those cards were from like 35 years ago.

We both grew up in the same era and that all sounds about right. It was a fun time because it felt like baseball was really expanding beyond what it was prior to the 1980s where exposure was so limited.

Absolutely. I remember growing up there were some cheesy VHS baseball instruction videos. One of the major sponsors was Kool-Aid. There were three topics; pitching, fielding and hitting and Ozzie Smith ran the fielding one. My dad said I watched that video so much the tape actually disintegrated! They would interview people like Graig Nettles and Brooks Robinson and some old school guys and they would give their input or show how to do things.

They said they needed me to fly into Miami because they had a hurricane issue and doubleheader and needed a starter. This was like three weeks where I hadn’t pitched. I was like, “OK, let’s see what happens!”

Before we get into some Major League Baseball stuff, I wanted to ask you about playing at Texas A&M. Could you talk about your path from growing up a Texas kid to playing at A&M?

The area where I grew up was prominent towards baseball and football. I played with a hand-selected group when I was in middle school. My first year I was the youngest kid on the team playing with high school seniors when I was in eighth grade. My first series I was a huge flop. I made some errors and don’t even know if I swung the bat. My coach, who coached me for the next six years, absolutely let me have it. He said if I was going to be playing on this field, I needed to play like a man. I remember bawling sitting in the dugout. But the next week I was a little better, then the next week after better a little more. I was catching up to the speed and upped my game with the people around me. It took the mentality that it was still 90 feet to each base and 60’6” from the rubber to home plate. The field is bigger, but the game plays the same.

Once I got to high school, I was on JV as a freshman and was super bummed. Three games in, someone got hurt and I moved up to varsity. Those guys were still larger than life to me. My sophomore year, scouts started coming around. I went to some camps at UTSA, UT and A&M. I’d get letters asking to take visits junior year. I’m thankful that I was always oblivious to this. My mom said we should go to Texas A&M and I had been there already at a camp. We went and visited and it was great. I visited like five other schools and my mom asked what I thought and I said, “I didn’t tell you this, but I already gave my verbal to Texas A&M.”

Logan Kensing #19 of the Florida Marlins pitches during a game against the Oakland Athletics at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California on June 22, 2008. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB via Getty Images)

You were drafted in 2003 and got called up from A Ball to the majors in 2004. You just don’t see pitchers jump up that quick. Can you take us through that 2004 season?

That call up happened out of the blue for me. The year before I was in short season rookie ball and finished out the year well. The Low A team had made the playoffs and I got called up for that. The next year I started in High A and all five of our starters eventually made the major leagues. We had myself, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Rick van den Hurk and Yorman Bazardo. We had great camaraderie. I was the oldest guy there and the only one who went to college. The pitching directors would use me as a conductor to get to those guys. We all pulled for each other. I don’t remember ever doing this anywhere else, but whoever was pitching a bullpen that day, the other guys would watch and give feedback. We had a great pitching coach in Reid Cornelius too. The only problem was that our team was not good. We led the league in ERA and most of us were below 3.00, but we also led the league in not scoring runs. We just didn’t win a lot of games.

How did your call up come about?

Hurricane Charlie hit and wiped out the whole side of Florida. They called off the last two weeks of the season. I had a buddy in Florida and asked him if he could pack up my stuff and I’d fly back in and pick it up. I did that and then sat on the couch for like 12 days. Hadn’t even picked up a ball. One day my phone rang with a Miami number, and I ignored it. Then another Miami number called me again and I ignored that too. An hour later, same thing. Then my scout called me and said that the Marlins were trying to get a hold of me. He gave me a number that I called and they didn’t answer. So my agent asked where I was and told me to meet him at a field with my glove and cleats. I went to College Station and threw a bullpen with him and Jim Lawler. I remember not being very good. Then the phone rang and it was the Marlins. They said they needed me to fly into Miami because they had a hurricane issue and doubleheader and needed a starter. This was like three weeks where I hadn’t pitched. I was like, “OK, let’s see what happens!”

Logan Kensing #28 of the Washington Nationals pitches during a game against the San Diego Padres on July 25, 2009 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

That scramble to get to Miami in the middle of all of that had to be hectic. What was it like getting out to Miami after pretty much just sitting around for a few weeks?

I drove to San Antonio and got on a flight to Miami and went to the field. That was the first time I felt overwhelmed by baseball in general and life. I walked in and didn’t know what to do or where to go. I was just standing there and people were just walking right past me. Finally one of the clubbies got me and said he would get me some pants and a jersey so I could go in the dugout. I didn’t even know where the dugout was. I walked past Jack McKeon and Perry Hill and nobody said a word to me. I walked all the way to the end of the dugout and just sat down and watched the game. I don’t think I moved an inch or blinked the rest of the game. After the game, another clubbie got me and took me into Jack’s office. He introduced me to the pitching coach, who I had never met and said we’d throw a bullpen the next day. Then he told me I’d make a start in two or three days.

Then the time finally came to make your first big league start at Wrigley Field. Can you talk to us about that?

Wayne Rosenthal was the pitching coach and he told me I was starting the second game of the doubleheader. He told me to get there around the third inning of game one and to come find him. I had never been to Chicago and never been to Wrigley. I had never even been in a hotel with that many floors. My parents were flying in and I had four buddies who were coming in as well. I talked to the concierge and got a cab to the field. Game one had already started, so they had shut down Waveland and the roads around it so he couldn’t get me that close to the field. I asked him where to go and he just said, “Go that way.” I’m literally walking around in the crowd and finally found the big red Wrigley Field sign, where I ran into my parents. They were like, “What are you doing out here?!” My buddies showed up too and everyone was all excited. I was just like, “I don’t have time for this. I have to get into this place and get ready to pitch!”

My mom cut off all these people at the ticket window and said to one of the employees, “My son is pitching tonight and needs to get in. Can you help him?” Everyone was just staring at her. I walked up there and was like, “My name is up on that red sign. Here’s my driver’s license.” Someone finally came out, checked my ID and called one of our guys to come get me.

Logan Kensing #27 of the Seattle Mariners exits a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 25, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

This is incredible. What was it like walking into Wrigley for the first time?

I got into the clubhouse and it was just so small and musty. It was amazing. I was walking around and started going out to the field and they told me I couldn’t go out there yet. Nobody was telling me anything. I went in the training room and watched game one on TV with a couple of other guys. The pitching coach eventually came and got me to warm up. I met Mike Redmond for the first time and we went through the signs. There was no anthem because they played it for game one, so we just went out and took the field.

I remember facing Moises Alou. He had that stance where if you just saw a silhouette of it, you knew who it was. He had the biggest dip in. I’m looking at him and can remember watching him as a kid with my dad and him telling me he was the best inner half fastball hitter he had seen. This was when I was like eight. Redmond put down a sign for a sinker in and I shook him off two or three times. Redmond stands up, looks at me, gets back down and gives the sign for a sinker in again. A sinker in came in, and a sinker in left the stadium. In my head, I was like, “That was a different noise.”

That was a pretty good Cubs team, too. They just missed the playoffs by three games and had some legit hitters.

Absolutely. The next guy after Moises Alou that inning was Aramis Ramirez. As Moises Alou was still running around the bases, I was watching him and the umpire was yelling for me to get a new ball. I wasn’t even paying attention. I got a new ball, everyone calmed down and I remembered my mom saying that Aramis Ramirez ate hanging breaking balls for breakfast. First sign from Redmond was a slider. I hung it and he hit it out of the park. At that point in my head, I was like, “I am never going to succeed in this league ever.” Before I could even turn around, Jack McKeon was on the mound taking me out. I walked into the clubhouse and watched the rest of the game. Not a single person talked to me. I remember just thinking, “That was the coolest thing I have ever done!”

That’s great you kept it in perspective. You’re so right; no matter the outcome, it’s just incredible to go out there on a major league mound to compete.

You’re right. Even the next morning walking out to the bus. One of my buddies, who is actually my business partner now, whistled over to me. As I turned around, a shirt hits me in the face. It was an Aramis Ramirez 50/50 Gildan t-shirt jersey and he was just laughing at me. I still have it to this day! I wish I would have been more prepared for it. But I really couldn’t even have asked for anything more. I’ve had people come up to me after the fact and say that what they did to me was not fair. But what if that was my only chance? Maybe I didn’t think it at the time, but I had everything I needed to be successful.

You pitched in the majors from 2004-2009 and then had some injury setbacks. You missed all of 2010 and spent a couple of years working your way back. You ended up getting back to the majors in 2013 after four years. What was it like making it back after being out so long?

I think it means I was really lucky. I never really felt comfortable in the league. I knew I had the stuff, I just couldn’t let myself do it when I got there because I always felt like I had something to prove. The injury added to my drive to not stop playing. I always felt like I didn’t want to give up at that point. I just felt like if there was still life in me, I was going to give it everything I got. There’s only like 23,000 people who have ever gotten the chance to play [in the major leagues] so it was just the drive I had and hoping for one more time in the major leagues.

You mentioned Reid Cornelius as a pitching coach you enjoyed. Did you have any other coaches or managers during your time in professional ball who were influential to you?

There’s plenty and there are so many guys who were on teams who helped me. I picked up a lot of tidbits here and there from so many guys. But for coaches, Reid was the foundation and Scott Mitchell was another Marlins guy who was going to keep pushing me. Dean Treanor did a lot with our attitude. Jeff Pico was really good too. I had so many good coaches that it’s hard to lock them all down. You cross paths with so many people who touch your heart, soul and mind in the game. It’s always good to have guys like that on your side.

You definitely can’t make it to the show without help along the way. I enjoy hearing about teammates who support each other through the journey. This has been awesome and I thank you for taking the time to share your stories! Last question for you. When I ask you to reflect on some of the players that you played with and against, who are the guys who come to mind?

We had a core group of guys that I came up through the system with in Miami and I have never seen anything like that in sports. It’s that group of pitchers that included Scott Olsen, Rick van den Hurk, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Kevin Gregg. Matt Lindstrom, Arthur Rhodes, Matt Herges helped me too. I was lucky enough to get to play with some old guys and hearing about how the game has changed over time was very interesting.

Seeing some of those guys in action was nothing short of awesome. I remember facing Chipper Jones for the first time. Someone like Adam Dunn I couldn’t get out for my life. I got A-Rod out a couple of times which was awesome. I faced Barry Bonds once and he fouled out. I’ll take that as a win. You look at his numbers and they’re video game numbers, but I got one on my belt with him. In the minor leagues I remember facing Aaron Judge. Now my kids are seven and eight and they’re huge Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout fans. I tell them I faced Mike Trout. I played with Miguel Cabrera on multiple teams and my kids ask me stories about him. My kids love Jose Altuve and I tell them I faced him too. There were a lot of people who were bigger than life – and that part of the game was so awesome.

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book was released in April of 2021.

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