By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
UTSA pitcher Luke Malone made quite the impression on a family that hosted him last year in Falmouth, Mass. When Malone traveled to play summer ball in the prestigious Cape Cod League, he was assigned to stay with Karen White and Joe Miller.
White and her husband were so taken by Malone, they promised him that they would come to visit in San Antonio during his senior year. The reunion happened last weekend when White, Miller and three other friends arrived to cheer on Malone and the Roadrunners against the Rice Owls.
“We’ve been hosting for 15 years,” White said. “He’s one of our favorites.”
In a brief conversation with White on May 5 at Roadrunner Field, I started to see and hear some things that made me realize why Malone has been sort of a one-of-a-kind player on the UTSA roster for the past four seasons, and why the team likely will miss him when he’s gone.
For one thing, it was easy to spot his friends at Roadrunner Field. They were the ones wearing T-shirts saying, ‘From Cape Cod to San Antonio,’ with Malone’s mug shot on the front.
“We’re so lucky to have been a part of (Cape Cod League baseball) for all these years,” White said. “We’ve hosted dozens of boys. We’ve watched some make it to the majors. Others not. But Luke is a special kid.”
This weekend, UTSA hosts the Dallas Baptist Patriots in three games with Conference USA title implications. Because of weather forecasts, two games will be played Friday and the Roadrunners’ home finale on either Saturday or Sunday.
Before the home finale, UTSA will honor 14 UTSA seniors, including the likes of Malone, Leyton Barry, Antonio Valdez and Taylor Smith.
Malone, a righthander from Round Rock, came to UTSA as a transfer from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2020 and played as a walk-on before working his way into the starting rotation over the past two seasons.
At UTSA, he’ll be known as one of the lynchpins of a team that won 38 games a year ago and 36 (so far) this season. White said in an interview on May 5 at Roadrunner Field that Malone was different from some of the athletes she has hosted over the years.
“He was just very family oriented,” she said. “He was open to (experiences away from the field). We like to show them around. We took him to Fenway Park. Did a Red Sox game. He loved it. He was open to whatever we wanted to do.
“That isn’t always the case with the college boys. Sometimes they just want to hang with each other. He loved hanging with us. So we loved that.”
Players in the Cape Cod League have a rigorous schedule just in terms of what they are required to do for their respective teams.
“They put in long hours, at least six days a week,” White said. “What we liked about Luke, was, they run special clinics for young kids. Luke would go and work the camps in the morning early, about 6 or 7 a.m., have lunch and go back to the field. So his work ethic was wonderful.”
White said on most days she and her husband didn’t really see him much.
“We’d have breakfast in the morning and then he’d scoot off to the field and help teach the kids,” she said. “Come back home. Eat quick. And then he’d be gone (to team activities) from 2 to 10 every night. It’s a rigourous schedule.
“But when we had time off, that’s the difference with his maturity, when they had a day off, he was very open to us. He took advantage of every single activity.”
Malone said in an interview on Thursday that he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the host family last summer.
A trip to see the Red Sox. A drive over to Martha’s Vineyard. A day off to see Plymouth Rock. Just hanging around the family’s home in Falmouth was an experience. Out the back door, he could see the ocean.
The beach was just a short walk away. And the home cooking? How about lobster enchiladas? Lobster ravioli?
“I have so much respect for them, hosting players,” Malone said. “Sometimes (players) leave and you have another one come in. That’s what happened with us. They had a pitcher there, and after about a week, he left and I stayed the rest of the summer.
“I love that family. It’s basically like a second family. They had a grandbaby, so I was, like, their last player for awhile, because they’re going to be busy.”
Dallas Baptist at UTSA in a three-game series with Conference USA title implications. First two are scheduled for Friday, with the first pitch at 3 p.m. at Roadrunner Field. Second game to follow 45 minutes after completion of the first. Third game to be played either Saturday or Sunday, weather permitting.
Dallas Baptist 37-12, 20-4
UTSA 36-12, 19-4
UTSA will recognize 14 seniors and 15 graduates through the weekend. Senior Day ceremony is scheduled approximately 30 minutes prior to the third game of the series. The seniors include: