Logan Landon didn’t grow up dreaming of playing for the Canaries.
No offense to the Sioux Falls minor league team, but nobody really does. The big leagues are every ballplayer’s dream.
But when Landon was released by the Dodgers after five years in their minor league system, the Birds quickly came calling for the Lincoln High School alum. It would be a perfect fit – the hometown kid who’d reached Triple-A playing for a Canaries team looking to shake a long run of losing seasons while playing a coronavirus-shortened season that figured to bring much-needed relief to baseball fans in the area.
And when affiliated minor league baseball canceled the 2020 season due to COVID-19, it made Landon’s decision pretty easy. The 27-year-old still wouldn’t exactly call it fulfilling a dream, but playing for a team he occasionally watched as a kid, sleeping in his own bed, living with family and providing offensive punch and solid glove work for a Canaries squad that’s threatening to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade have added up to a pretty special summer for the former Sioux Falls Cyclones standout.
“It’s been pretty great, I’m having a lot of fun,” said the 6-foot-2, 180-pound outfielder. “I’ve spent so much time living out of a suitcase, rooming with five or six guys, not having your own car, eating fast food – now I get to stay at home, see my family, sleep in my own bed, drive my own car – that’s a real bonus, on top of getting to play some of the only professional baseball that’s going on right now.”
Landon was born in Lansing, Mich., but grew up in Sioux Falls (yes, his family are big Michigan State fans, and his younger brother, Ethan, pitched for the Spartans). Logan played high school baseball for Lincoln and for the Cyclones program in the summers, where he established himself as a pitching prospect. After a stop at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas he went on to Division I Texas-Pan American University (now known as Texas-Rio Grande Valley), where an arm injury prompted a transition from pitcher to full-time outfielder before his senior season.
In 51 games, Landon batted .382 with eight homers and 17 stolen bases while establishing himself as a standout with the glove as well. The Dodgers took him in the 10th round of the 2015 draft.
After batting .263 with nine homers, 52 RBI and 22 steals in a full season in the Class A Midwest League in 2016, Landon split each of the next two seasons between the High-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels, where his glove always played but the bat struggled to keep up. He’s a career .214 hitter in Double-A and is 5-for-26 (.192) at Triple-A.
So when Landon decided to sign on with the Canaries, it wasn’t just to get some home cooked meals from mom. Landon arrived in Sioux Falls ready to work on his swing in hopes of proving to a big league organization that he’s worth another look.
That work has paid off. Though a mini-slump recently dropped his average below .300, Landon has been one of the Birds’ most consistent hitters this season. In 32 games he’s hitting .288 with a .340 on-base percentage and .464 slugging percentage for an .804 OPS. He’s hit five homers and ranks second on the team with 26 RBI.
“He’s really been great for us,” said Birds skipper Mike Meyer. “I’ve been looking to add some ambush hitters to our lineup and he does that really well. He attacks early in counts and gets the barrel to it. That puts fear in the opposing pitching staff. He had a down year last year and he really worked on his swing this offseason to get it back to where he’s comfortable and it’s worked out really well for him. He’s been a big piece for us.”
Landon’s always been steady in the outfield, where his speed, range and instincts have made him a plus defender throughout his career. He’s spent time in the outfield corners for the Canaries but is now entrenched in center.
As for being the hometown kid, that part’s been fun, too. Landon lives in the house he grew up in and spends quality time with his family. They come to all of his games and he and his dad frequently dissect the day’s action together.
That’s made the game fun, which is often rejuvenating for a player recently released by a major league organization. Trying to climb the affiliated baseball ladder is stressful, and players don’t always have as much control of it as they’d like. If they aren’t a high draft pick, they can easily get lost in the shuffle or cast aside for younger but not necessarily better players.
For Landon, simply trying to help the Canaries win every night while honing his skills has helped him fall in love with the game again.
“When you step into an independent clubhouse for the first time, there’s always going to be some skepticism,” Landon admits. “I went to Canaries games when I was 10 but you really don’t know how good the players actually are. Is there gonna be pressure? Am I gonna enjoy it?
“But you get there and it’s a bunch of guys going through the exact same thing you are,” Landon continues. “Yeah, we all want to get back to affiliated ball, but while we’re here we just want to play. To be able to just go play and have a good time – you really find the roots of the game and find your passion for it again.”
That relaxed atmosphere and attitude has certainly helped Landon get comfortable in the batter’s box. In past years he said he would set specific statistical goals for himself, which would usually just lead to a season of chasing those numbers. In Sioux Falls, he’s hopeful just being consistent and showing he can swing the bat well will be enough to help the Canaries win and perhaps get the attention of another big league organization.
“I didn’t expect him to be as productive as he has,” Meyer said. “I knew he was a good defender who could run but I didn’t realize he’d have this kind of juice and be able to drive the ball to all fields like he has.”
The combination of tools, Meyer says, could earn Landon another shot at the majors, especially if he can continue to show extra base power and on-base skills to match his glove work.
Landon is well aware of what he needs to do to earn that shot, and while he admits he still thinks about it, right now he’s just trying to be the best player he can and enjoy it while it lasts.
“I’d like to think I could get another shot,” he says. “In my heart of hearts I feel like I have more in the tank to show a team. But putting more pressure on myself is the opposite of what I wanted to do coming into this year. I just want to be a consistent player that my manager can trust to make something good happen. I don’t want to dwell on (getting back in an organization) too much. I just want to play and have fun and become a more consistent player and hope someone likes me and things fall into place.”