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Saturday, June 22
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

From fly routes to fly balls

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Logan Kaletha’s dream was right in front of him.

Until it wasn’t.

IU baseball’s junior outfielder was a senior at Michigan City High School and was committed to play wide receiver at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. 

He was set to leave behind the other sport he loved — baseball. 

“It was 100 percent out of the picture,” Kaletha said. “My whole life I wanted to play college football.”

Then, he had a change of heart. 

Towards the end of his senior year in 2014, Kaletha and his coaches came to the consensus that it would be better if he continued a career on the diamond.

In May of that year, John A. Logan College in Carterville, Illinois, came calling. Kaletha accepted the community college’s offer and was set to continue his baseball career.

“It was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Kaletha said. “It opened up so many opportunities.”

Kaletha quickly impressed John A. Logan Coach Kyle Surprenant. 

Even before Kaletha stepped onto the diamond, Surprenant saw features that separated him from his teammates. 

“You look at all the great athletes, the best of all time — those guys just have a different type of drive than everybody else,” Surprenenat said. “He seems to be one of those guys. He’s not going to lose.”

His drive led to Kaletha catching the eyes of IU baseball. 

Kaletha visited IU, along with other schools, in hopes of receiving a Division I baseball scholarship. While heading home from a visit, Kaletha received a call from IU Coach Chris Lemonis asking him to come play for the Hoosiers. 

It took Kaletha less than a day to accept. 

Needing less than a day to commit is just one example of a common theme Kaletha has shown — efficiency.

Not only does Kaletha change the dynamic of a game with his speed on the field, but he does not take long to accomplish his goals.

In his first season with the Hoosiers, he claimed the leadoff role before the regular season started and got on base in his first at-bat of the season. He even got his first walk-off hit when he launched a grand slam in IU’s third game of the season.

“Jumping out right away is good,” Kaletha said. “You’re going to have good games and bad games, but you always have to think positive.”

That positive outlook has lead to Kaletha batting near .300 in 26 games with the Hoosiers. His on-base percentage has been around .450 most of the season, thanks in large part to his ability to get hit by a pitch.

Kaletha has been hit by a pitch 13 times this season. 

What makes that statistic even more fascinating is the fact that, during Kaletha's first season with the Vols, he was drilled by a pitch, breaking his forearm and forcing him to redshirt. 

His toughness has kept him from being afraid and backing off the plate.

“That’s the most physical kid I’ve ever coached,” Surprenant said. “He’ll do anything, in any way necessary, to help the team. The guy would run through a wall for people.”

Kaletha’s goals now reflect his play on the field. Where many players would hope to receive All-Big Ten honors, Kaletha said his only personal goal this season is “a 40-50 win season.”

Kaletha has transitioned from a school with an enrollment of below 10,000 to IU, where his reaction to having class with more than 150 people was, “Oh my God.”

Despite being one of the newer members on a veteran team, Kaletha said he has not struggled to build bonds.

“Probably some of the best dudes I’ve ever met in my life,” Kaletha said. “They’re the most welcoming group of guys.”

While showing great ability to reach base, Kaletha also ranks in the top-five on the team for home runs and runs batted in.

Despite his dominance in the leadoff role, Lemonis believes there is still room for improvement.

“There’s still a little bit left in that swing,” Lemonis said. “He’s played great, been a great spark plug for us, been a great leadoff in filling that spot.”

As the season nears its midway point, Kaletha’s competitiveness keeps him pushing each day. That is another thing that junior college has helped him develop.

“I’m a very competitive player,” Kaletha said. “Playing great competition here has helped me a lot.”

Kaletha can usually be seen with a smile on his face, but that was a feature he had even while at John A. Logan.

For a guy that saw his dreams slip away in high school, he has learned to enjoy every moment, which is key to succeeding in a roller coaster sport such as baseball.

“The game of baseball is a mental war with yourself,” Surprenant said. “If you can’t handle any failure or struggle, then it’s going to be a long four years, or a short career.”

Kaletha’s failure and long path eventually brought him to the top of IU’s lineup.

His previous dream of playing college football is now long gone. 

Winning games is what Kaletha dreams of now.

“We can make it all the way to the College World Series,” Kaletha said. “We’ve got the talent one through nine in the lineup. It’s just insane.”

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