The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Former area resident makes name in baseball

 

April 10, 2019

Courtesy photo

Retired Portales coach and teacher Jim Love with Logan White.

For more than 650 families in Curry and Roosevelt counties with baseball-loving kids, Saturday was opening day for the 2019 Little League season.

It was also a day filled with more than a little sentiment for one couple with deep connections to eastern New Mexico and the game of baseball.

"I love the smell of the grass, I love the crack of the bat, I love a called third strike, and I love the strategy of the game," said Logan White, who may be one of the most successful former little leaguers to come out of our area.

Since 2014, he has been senior advisor and director of player personnel for the San Diego Padres' Major League baseball team, after a decades-long association with the game at the professional level that included playing time with the Seattle Mariners organization, and scouting for the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers as well as the Padres.

White, who was inducted into the Legends of Scouting Hall of Fame earlier this year, has a message for the young players who picked up gloves and bats last weekend on the High Plains: "Someone is going to play in the major leagues ... why not you? You have to believe you can do it, no matter where you come from. But it's not going to happen without a lot of hard work."

A year ago this month White and his wife, Deena, moved their home base back to Portales, returning to the area where both of them grew up and to the community where they became high school sweethearts.

Logan White was born in Humansville, Missouri, and lived there until he was a fourth grader when his family moved to New Mexico.

"My mom gave me a baseball and football when I was just a little baby," he said. "As I got older, my mother taught me how to throw. I would say I was around 3 years old. I loved all sports but baseball was always my passion."

It was also a constant for a kid who moved often.

"I went to 17 different schools by the time I attended junior high," he said.

He spent his eighth and ninth grade years at Elida, earning a reputation as a hot-shot pitcher, then moved to Portales as a sophomore. He met Deena Smartnick when they were juniors taking chemistry at Portales High School in the fall of 1978.

These two were familiar faces in the community. Besides his time on the field, White worked for various farmers and ranchers, pulled shifts at the old truck stop restaurant on U.S. 70, and put in hours at Poynor's Home and Auto store in Portales.

Deena was one of the first employees at McDonald's when it opened in Portales, and also owned and operated a local dance studio in the 1980s.

Although White jokingly says he started playing baseball when he was "in the crib," he officially suited up for the first time when he was 8, and played little league for a Melrose team when he was 11.

"My first Roosevelt County team was for Elida in Babe Ruth when I was 14 and 15," he said. "I then played baseball in Clovis because Portales didn't play summer baseball after the age of 15."

With every pitch, he envisioned a future in the game.

"I always dreamed of being a professional baseball player," White said. "I always believed I would spend my life in the game, from the time I was very young."

He gives credit to a number of local adults for important support in his early days.

"I was fortunate to have Coach Rodney Gardner at Elida," White said. "Coach Gardner was from Causey, New Mexico, and played at Lubbock Christian University. He had a terrific impact on me as a baseball player and a person.

"My high school coach at Portales High was Loy Hampton," he added, "and he had an effect on my career. Also, Coach Ron Fowler gave me a lot of life skills."

Two others who didn't coach him in baseball but who "were tremendously supportive in high school and beyond," were PHS coaches and teachers John Chavez and Jim Love.

White said Chavez promised the young pitcher that if he'd try hard on the field, he'd get the extra help he needed to get through a tough academic class he had to have in order to play.

"Coach Love put a picture of me pitching up on his bulletin board and he would tell everyone that I was going to be a big leaguer," White said. "He taught all of his students to believe in themselves and they could do anything that they put their mind to."

Logan and Deena attended their junior and senior proms as a couple and danced the Maypole together before graduating in 1980, and marrying in 1982. In the ensuing years, they lived in western New Mexico and Arizona.

"Logan has lived in more cities and states," Deena said. "I stayed home while he went and played ball."

Their son, Logan Jr., was born in 1998. Following in his dad's footsteps, he grew up on the baseball diamond and is currently a catcher for the University of California-San Diego Tritons.

"He's a better hitter than I was," Logan White said. "He was drafted out of high school but chose not to sign. I think he has a chance to become a professional baseball player if he continues to progress and have that goal."

With an "empty nest" and a desire to downsize, Deena said, the Whites came home to Portales last April, settling near her parents, Web and Jan Smartnick, who will celebrate their 60th anniversary later this year.

Deena and Logan both say the best thing about being back is seeing old friends and being closer to family.

Logan continues to actively travel with his job, and Deena can follow electronically.

"I'm definitely a fan," she says. "I have the MLB package on my television so I can watch as many games as I want. I'm also able to watch Logan Jr. online."

After more than 40 baseball seasons together, they both still love the first pitch of the spring.

"Opening day is always an exciting time of year," White said. "It's always fun to get started after spring training. Your hopes and dreams for the season are still fresh and keep you looking forward towards the coming year."

"It's very exciting," Deena concurred. "It's like being a proud parent every time I see one of 'our boys' playing either on TV or in the major leagues or as they are working their way up in the minor leagues. Little league is so much fun because that is where the journey begins, and it brings back so many fun memories."

Logan White would love to see another local kid move up through the ranks as he did all those years ago.

"I would like the little league kids to know to not be afraid to leave their comfort zone and to give it their best," he said. "But enjoy the game along the way and be a good teammate. The rest will take care of itself."

Betty Williamson remembers when Logan White was an Elida Tiger. Reach her at:

pepnm@hotmail.com

 
 

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