VALRICO — Logan Crouse took a few practice swings in the on-deck circle before his father, Terry, called him over to the fence.
Just feet away, the elder Crouse, dressed in Bloomingdale black and red from ball cap to Nike sneakers, had been sitting in his folding chair taking in the game. He got up, leaned against the chain-link fence that separated the stands from the diamond, and gave his son a few pointers.
What may be considered meddling to some, the junior right-hander insists is nothing but a gift.
“I love it to death. Every game I ask him for advice,” Logan said. “He’s been watching me forever, so he knows if anybody knows what I’m doing wrong.”
As unattainable as it may be for the 6-foot-6 Florida State commit, Logan admits he’s in pursuit of perfection. With the 33rd annual Saladino Tournament just around the corner, Logan doesn’t just have a Bloomingdale streak to continue.
He’s got a family tradition to uphold.
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Sure, there was a dugout full of Bulls last season that helped Bloomingdale win its first Saladino Tournament title since 1995. But coach Kris Wilken knows exactly which two made it possible.
“Logan and Cody won us that championship,” he said, “hands down.”
With Durant’s tying run at first base, and the 2013 Bulls just two outs from securing their second straight Saladino championship game berth, Logan struck out the last two batters he faced to lead Bloomingdale to a 3-1 victory.
That set up a championship rematch against Jefferson, giving his older brother, Cody, a second chance to bring a tournament title to Bloomingdale.
Now a spot starter for FIU, Cody had been the pitcher of record in Bloomingdale’s 2012 loss to the Dragons in the Saladino championship. But last season — just two games after he, Logan and youngest brother Carson all pitched in a win against Leto — Cody threw a complete game to help lift the Bulls to a 3-2 tournament championship win, the Bulls’ third in school history.
He and his brothers are competitive, said Logan, who also plays football and basketball at Bloomingdale. In fact, the middle Crouse can recall a time when his mother banned one-on-one basketball between he and Cody because the backyard pickup games often led to fist fights.
Still, he says he’s proud of Cody for accomplishing the goal of playing at the next level, somewhere he plans to be before long. First, though, he’s got a job to finish at Bloomingdale; taking over a role that, with his older brother graduated, he no longer has to share.
“Now, there’s no question. If we’ve got to win, I’m giving the ball to Logan,” Wilken said. “”If he’s not the best athlete to ever come to this school, I don’t know who is.”
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Wednesday — the day after Bloomingdale (4-4) lost its district matchup with Alonso 3-1 — Logan realized he and Wilken had the same lunch period during the school day. So at Logan’s request, Wilken took the right-hander, who has a 1.94 ERA and .250 batting average, out to the field for some extra batting practice.
Wilken said he uses Logan’s work ethic as an example to the rest of his team. The self-proclaimed perfectionist has high standards for himself, and just like he did as a 10-year-old learning to throw a slurve, Crouse is willing to put in the work to achieve them.
“He worked, and he worked, and he worked on that pitch,” Terry Crouse recalled. “There were nights he’d be three hours throwing the baseball against the garage door by himself.”
Logan will start Monday against Gaither, but Wilken admits he’s not sure he’ll start him in the Saladino championship game should the Bulls make it back. After pitching Logan and Cody in the semifinal and final last season, Wilken made them sit and rest the following week, during which the Bulls lost a pair of district games.
This go around, Wilken’s not sure he’s ready to go all in to bring home another tournament title.
But don’t tell Logan that.
He says he’s prepared to talk Wilken into giving him his spot on the mound should they still be alive March 14. Logan has never been in the business of sitting back and watching it all unfold. With the chance to follow in his brother’s footsteps, he’s not about to start now.
“Without a doubt (I want to start),” he said. “That would be awesome to keep the (Crouse) legacy going.”
Kelly Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_kellyparsons.
Saladino Tournament schedule
*After Tuesday, all games are at Brandon High.
Saturday: At Brandon — King vs. Brooks DeBartolo, 10 a.m.; Plant vs. East Bay, 1; Steinbrenner vs. Hillsborough, 4; Brandon vs. Spoto, 7. At Newsome — Leto vs. Gaither, 10; Bloomingdale vs. Tampa Bay Tech, 1; Durant vs. Lennard, 4; Newsome vs. Jefferson, 7. At Chamberlain — Strawberry Crest vs. Middleton, 1; Chamberlain vs. Wharton, 4. At University of Tampa — Riverview vs. Freedom, 10; Plant City vs. Blake, 1; Sickles vs. Robinson, 4; Alonso vs. Armwood, 7
Monday: At Brandon — King vs. East Bay, 10; Brooks DeBartolo vs. Plant, 1; Steinbrenner vs. Spoto, 4; Hillsborough vs. Brandon, 7; At Newsome — Leto vs. TBT, 10; Gaither vs. Bloomingdale, 1; Jefferson vs. Lennard, 4; Newsome vs. Durant, 7. At Chamberlain — Wharton vs. Middleton, 1; Chamberlain vs. Strawberry Crest, 4. At University of Tampa — Riverview vs. Blake, 10; Freedom vs. Plant City, 1; Sickles vs. Armwood, 4; Robinson vs. Alonso, 7
Tuesday: At Brandon — East Bay vs. Brooks DeBartolo, 10; Plant vs. King, 1; Spoto vs. Hillsborough, 4; Brandon vs. Steinbrenner, 7. At Newsome — TBT vs. Gaither, 10; Bloomingdale vs. Leto, 1; Durant vs. Jefferson, 4; Lennard vs. Newsome, 7; At Chamberlain — Strawberry Crest vs. Wharton, 1; Middleton vs. Chamberlain, 4. At University of Tampa — Blake vs. Freedom, 10; Plant City vs. Riverview, 1; Armwood vs. Robinson, 4; Alonso vs. Sickles, 7
Wednesday: Quarterfinals, 10, 1, 4 and 7
March 13: Semifinals, 4 and 7
March 14: Final, 7
A: Brandon, Steinbrenner, Hillsborough, Spoto
B: King, Plant, Brooks DeBartolo, East Bay
C: Durant, Jefferson, Newsome, Lennard
D: Bloomingdale, Leto, Gaither, Tampa Bay Tech
E: Plant City, Riverview, Freedom, Blake
F: Alonso, Sickles, Robinson, Armwood
G: Strawberry Crest, Wharton, Chamberlain, Middleton