The Billionaire in Triple A (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday April 3, 2007 9:31AM; Updated: Tuesday April 3, 2007 9:31AM
White is with his eighth organization and hasn't had a cup of coffee in the bigs as much as a few sips: 9 2/3 innings, in which he allowed 17 hits and eight walks. His 16.76 ERA looks like the APR on a lousy credit card. White can now squeeze money from a stone, yet it is still the game that enriches his soul. If he never pitched another big league inning, he says, "I wouldn't be happy. When you go up to the big leagues and see how awesome it is and get sent down to Triple A again, you realize this isn't where you want to be. I want to get called up and make a career out of this thing, be known as a big leaguer and not a rock-quarry man."
To White, his time in the bigs, however shaky, is the residue of unwavering commitment. As for what made him famous ... well, sometimes mica schist happens.
White and his Las Vegas teammates were wolfing down sandwiches and salads before an exhibition game against the Double A Jacksonville Suns last week when Ken Huckaby, a 36-year-old journeyman catcher, said, "Hey, Whitey, where's the lobster?"
Considering that moneybags jokes have been making the rounds since MLB.com reported the story in mid-February, they'd seem old -- except for White's delight in the people who have told them. Outfielder Luis Gonzalez, for example, often sang the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies when White was in the room, prompting the pitcher, unfamiliar with cultural imperatives like the cee-ment pond, to buy the movie DVD a week ago. "It's neat being in the big league camp and hearing the perspective of guys like Gonzalez and Jason Schmidt, who've been around and made good money," says White, who will earn $12,000 monthly in the minors. "You get to know people by talking about the stone. The guys were interested."
In the spring, high-number hopefuls are segregated less by race or language than by status. But with the ultimate conversation starter White had an equalizer -- even if he found the media attention embarrassing. He wouldn't make the club, but he had made, well, the club.
White usually has found a niche. He graduated from the regional high school in Dalton (which also produced major league pitchers Jeff Reardon and Turk Wendell) in 1995 as a 150-pounder with a fastball that traveled at speeds that barely turn heads on the Mass Pike. His plans to attend North Adams State were derailed when a Clemson coach attended his no-hitter that summer in an AAU tournament. White was hardly a headliner as a freshman on a Tigers staff that included Kris Benson and Billy Koch, but he gained enough weight and miles per hour that the Indians drafted him in the 15th round after his junior season. White served three tours in the Cleveland organization but never pitched for the Indians. His major league debut came with the Red Sox in New York on May 27, 2003. Grady Little, now the Dodgers' manager, summoned him in the eighth inning with Boston trailing 5-2. "I don't remember running in from the bullpen," White says, "but there I was pitching for the Red Sox against the Yankees. Being from Massachusetts, it was a dream come true."
2 of 3