Freshman Logan Ice will start at catcher for No. 2 Oregon State to start season.
When Jake Rodriguez opted to go pro after his junior year, an opportunity arose for a freshman to take over.
Rodriguez was Oregon State’s everyday catcher last season, and led the NCAA in throw-out percentage. He also provided the close-knit team with intangible leadership that couldn’t be quantified.
Once Rodriguez signed with the Houston Astros, a vacancy opened at starting catcher.
Freshman Logan Ice capitalized.
“Logan Ice has really surprised us with how good he can be,” head coach Pat Casey said last week. “Logan’s just playing with a lot more confidence than anyone playing back there. I’m not afraid to put him there at any time against anybody. As a matter of fact, if we started tomorrow, Logan Ice would be my starting catcher.”
It took a couple months with his new teammates before he felt comfortable.
“I came in a little shier than I really am, a little quieter,” Ice said.
Two-thirds of the catchers on the 2013 roster were gone: Rodriguez and Beau Day, who did not report for fall camp.
Uncertainty surrounded one the most important positions on the field. Junior Nate Esposito was the only returner with game experience (37 at-bats in 20 games).
But after winter break, Ice emerged as a viable candidate.
“I was actually very surprised,” said Wetzler, the senior left-handed pitcher. “The transformation he made over winter break was crazy. He was kind of the shy guy, didn’t say much, and he came back from winter break and he was a completely different human being.”
Wetzler and fellow veterans Michael Conforto, Dylan Davis and Andy Peterson met with Ice once they realized he was a starting backstop in the making.
“They basically just sat me down and they were just like, ‘It’s yours. If you want it, take it and run with it and don’t look back,’” Ice said. “At that point, it really set in that I was a legitimate candidate to be the starting catcher.”
Wetzler said the freshman showed noticeable differences in demeanor shortly after that meeting.
Ice was more vocal in scrimmages, able to get on older and younger players for mistakes, and becoming more of a leader on the field despite his lack of experience. Those traits are crucial at catcher — the position that serves as the field general on a baseball diamond.
“I’m a really outgoing guy when it comes to the baseball field, so once I figured out that I was the guy, it was pretty easy for me to be loud and take charge,” Ice said.
Ice hit for an average of .321 in his last two years at Rogers High School in Puyallup, Wash. He was an all-league selection in his junior and senior year. Perfect Game USA rated him as the No. 230 national all-around prospect.
He said his hitting and baserunning are areas for improvement, but his defense is where he excels.
“I take pride in my defense, I always have,” Ice said. “Being a catcher, I don’t think hitting is ever a high priority. You look at the major leagues, catchers are not very good hitters. I take pride in my catching.”
The No. 2 Beavers open their season Friday with a four-game tournament in Tempe, Ariz. Ice and Esposito are expected to split time at catcher.
But it appears it’s Ice’s job to lose, and the young up-and-comer can’t wait even two more days.
“I couldn’t be more ready to go,” Ice said. “We’ve had five, six months to prepare. All the years you prepare as a young kid leading up to this point, you dream to play in a collegiate baseball game.”
Warner Strausbaugh, editor-in-chief
On Twitter @WStrausbaugh