A pitcher making his first MLB start against the Milwaukee Brewers’ fearsome offense is already a daunting scenario, but add the pressure of John Cena rooting for you, and man, it’s impressive that Logan Allen got out alive.
Allen, a left-handed pitching prospect who was traded to the San Diego Padres in the 2015 Craig Kimbrel deal, allowed three hits, two walks, and no runs over seven innings as his team beat Milwaukee Tuesday night by a 4-1 score. The 22-year-old also recorded his first hit. Allen had the help of his teammates’ defense, the support of his family in the stands, and the presence of a large floating Padres jersey in the crowd.
The connection between Allen and Cena was because of a chance encounter in 2018. Cena and his childhood friends Colin Young and Rob Vetere were at a dinner in Tampa when Young, a former minor-league baseball player, noticed another table that looked to be a business dinner between baseball agents and some fresh-faced players. He thought something was fishy about it, and although that turned out not to be true, it gave the group an opportunity to introduce themselves to Allen and his friend (Ryne Stanek, who’s now an “opener” for the Tampa Bay Rays). In March, Dennis Lin of The Athletic wrote about the chance meeting:
Young alerted Cena of his suspicions: At the next table over, two agents seemed to be courting, and possibly taking advantage of, two young baseball players.
“Really? You think that?” Cena asked, his interest piqued.
“I’ve been in that situation, I know what it feels like, I know what it looks like. I think that’s what’s going on,” Young replied.
“OK,” Cena said. “We’re going to find out.”
Springing into action, Cena silently paid for the supposed baseball players’ bill. Then he strode over to their table and politely asked if, after dinner, they would come sit with him and his friends. Starstruck, the young men agreed. The older of the two later recalled that Cena passed by a second time and “he’s like, ‘Hey, just wanted to make sure you’re still going to come over.’”
Soon, Allen and Ryne Stanek, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, were introducing themselves to Cena, Young and Vetere. Young immediately recognized both names, including Allen, a former Red Sox prospect of considerable repute. The baseball players revealed they indeed had been dining with a pair of agents. Young’s intuition was correct.
As the conversation went on, Cena made a bet with the pitching prospect: If Allen made the major leagues, Cena would owe him a signed dollar bill. If not, Allen would have to provide an autographed single.
“Essentially, the wager’s amount was so small it was irrelevant,” Cena says. “I just kind of wanted to give Logan the perspective of, there is always a force in the universe that is going to say, ‘You have a large hill to climb in front of you, and I don’t believe you can do it.’ And sometimes that little small piece of energy is enough to get you over that hill.”
The “One-Dollar Bet” became a source of motivation for Allen. Although the lefty was a legitimate prospect at the time and now—Boston drafted him in the eighth round and he signed for $725,000—he still wasn’t a sure thing to make the bigs. Cena checked in and followed the pitcher’s progress, all the way to yesterday, when Allen took on one of the toughest lineups in the National League and finished with seven scoreless innings. That dollar is his.