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LoGrande's experience benefits Lakewood

It's every high school athlete's dream dilemma. Accept a full scholarship to play Division I football or take a nice chunk of change and play professional baseball.

For Angelo LoGrande the college was Notre Dame where the Irish wanted him to play quarterback. But the Cleveland Indians offered him a package worth up to $40,000 _ including $27,000 to sign _ which for a 17-year-old in 1975 was big bucks.

LoGrande originally committed to Notre Dame turning down 15 other schools, but when the Indians made him the 17th pick overall in the baseball draft, he couldn't refuse the hard cash. He said coming from an Italian family where his mom and dad really didn't know much about his opportunity made the money tough to refuse and that he doesn't regret the decision.

"I had a great time. It was quite an experience," LoGrande said. "I try not to regret anything I do."

LoGrande graduated from Sehone High School in Bellingham, Wash., and embarked on a career as a first baseman that lasted a decade. In his fourth year, LoGrande enjoyed his best season for Class AA Chattanooga, Tenn., nailing 26 home runs.

In 1980 and 1981, LoGrande was invited to the Indians' spring training camp in Tucson, Ariz. He got 60 or so at-bats but never caught the attention of then-manager Dave Garcia.

That is probably because in 1979 when LoGrande was having his career year, Andre Thornton was busy leading the Indians in homers (26) for the third straight year, not to mention a team-high in doubles (31) and RBI (93). Mike Hargrove led the Tribe in hitting (.325) that same year. Thornton, who went on to lead Cleveland in homers seven times, and Hargrove _ who set the club record with 111 walks in 1980 _ were ahead of LoGrande on the depth chart.

Hargrove, who remains one of LoGrande's good friends, is in his seventh year as manager of the Indians. LoGrande is the second-year coach of Lakewood High _ one of 10 teams that will compete at Seminole's Steve Georgiadis Tournament, which starts at 11 a.m. today.

LoGrande never thought about coaching until a friend persuaded him to take the reigns when his sons Mike and Ryan played at Baypoint Little League. He went 17-4 in his debut and last year guided the Spartans to an 11-12 mark.

This year, with Mike, Ryan and Jabe Breland from the Baypoint team on the squad, the Spartans are off to a 9-4 start and LoGrande said they easily could could have been 11-2. Though he never got to experience playing in the majors, retiring after a few years of unsuccessfully seeking a trade, LoGrande thinks his playing experience has helped the Spartans.

"The first thing I bring is leadership," LoGrande said. "I've done something most kids are trying to do. I've been through it and know what they are going through."

In two seasons, LoGrande has turned his team into an extended family. A team with players he calls potential pros _ Eric Smith and Ryder Wooten. A team with speed, poise, hustle and a good attitude. A team that has been rebuilt into one of Pinellas County's best.

"The kids believe they can play," LoGrande said. "They talk with their bats and gloves."

10th annual Georgiadis

Baseball Tournament

WHO: A 10-team field of mostly Pinellas County schools.

WHERE: Seminole High.

WHEN: Today through Thursday.

ADMISSION: $3.

ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT: The double-elimination event is named for former Seminole pitcher Steve Georgiadis, who died in March 1990 after shoulder surgery while a sophomore at the University of Florida. The host Warhawks have won the tournament four times, including last season.

SCHEDULE: Today _ Boca Ciega vs. Clearwater Central Catholic, 11 a.m.; Gibbs vs. Osceola, 2 p.m.; Lakewood vs. West Springfield, 5 p.m.; St. Petersburg vs. Shorecrest, 8 p.m. Monday _ Consolation bracket, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Seminole vs. Gibbs-Osceola winner, 5 p.m.; Leesburg vs. CCC-Boca Ciega winner, 8 p.m. Tuesday _ Consolation bracket, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Semifinals, 5 and 8 p.m. Wednesday _ Consolation brackets, 11 a.m., 2, 5, 8 p.m. Thursday _ Consolation bracket, 1, 4 p.m.; Championship, 7 p.m.

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