By Mike London
SURPRISE, Ariz. – Owen White watches training colleague Corey Seager’s bash baseball in the World Series, and Seager’s success reinforces his own detour and vulnerable baseball dreams.
White supports Seager from a distance of almost 1100 miles, while taking his smooth, left-handed turns in the COVID-19 World Series in 2020. It is a strange World Series played exclusively at Globe Life Field, a billion dollar exhibition space is the new home park to White’s organization – Texas Rangers.
“The guys I was drafted with, we’ve talked about playing in a World Series in our new stadium,” said White. “But I don’t think anyone has ever imagined a World Series at Globe Life Field like this.”
Rangers pulled White out of Carson High in the second round of 2018 and gave him $ 1.5 million good reasons to stop being a college star at the University of South Carolina. Seager made the same decision in 2012. Picked in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Northwest Cabarrus High, a $ 2.35 million signing bonus persuaded him to join the pro ranks instead of the Gamecocks.
The 6-foot-3 White is part of an American League franchise, but because he knows the Seagers well, he has no problem anchoring the National League’s Dodgers in the series against the American League’s Tampa Bay Rays.
White grew up about 20 miles from the Seager family who produced three pros (including Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle) in Kannapolis. In a global game like baseball, White and the Seagers are closest neighbors.
“Hopefully, Corey can come home with a championship,” White said.
Seager, MVP of the National League Championship Series, is a 26-year-old shortstop who has had surgery on Tommy John to repair his right elbow. He has also overcome left hip surgery.
Now he shows people what he can do when he is healthy.
White remains optimistic that his pro-career will follow a similar path. So far, it has mostly been about medical charts, not highlights and interviews.
White, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher, underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction commonly known as Tommy John surgery in May 2019, before ever having to throw a pitch in an official minor league game. The 55-minute operation in which a tendon was taken from White’s hoarding and used to repair his elbow has dominated his life ever since.
Rangers placed White on a conservative, non-rush recovery plan to protect his health and to protect their significant right-wing investment. After the operation in Texas, he embarked on a 16-month rehabilitation journey. There were days that included four hours of exercises and exercises. The goal for full recovery was set for August. 20, 2020.
White followed the plan and is now declared completely healthy.
“The casting program was difficult, but I think that process helped me mature, and I learned a lot of little things,” White said. “You deal with a lot of painful and annoying things when you go through rehabilitation. But I got a lot of good support from family and friends, as well as Rangers. I had several teammates going through the same things, and we helped push each other. Now I feel good mentally and physically. ”
Not all molds recover fully from the Tommy John operation, but those that have returned to the mound as good as new – or even better – include Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Mariano Rivera.
Both starting pitchers in Friday night’s World Series games – LA’s Walker Buehler (five years ago) and Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton (eight years ago) – are Tommy John survivors. It must have been encouraging for White.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to compete from the mound,” said White, who was honored as Gatorade Player of the Year for North Carolina in 2018. “So it’s exciting to be back out there.”
As he neared the end of his rehabilitation program, White faced a new obstacle – COVID-19.
He felt sick August. 4, five days before his 21st birthday. His temperature rose to 103 degrees below the toughest point in the fight against the dreaded virus.
“COVID knocked me off my feet for about a week and a half,” White said. “I lost some strength, but I’m getting it back.”
White went to Rangers’ complex in Surprise, Arizona, in early September.
He threw several bullpen sessions. On September 21, he met live hitters for the first time in a year and a half. He marked the date on the calendar.
Now he is one of the 60 best prospects Rangers praised for their fall instruction league. In a league that began Oct. 5 and continues through Nov. 13, he sits down with potential customers in the uniforms of the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners. The results have been up and down.
“The encouraging thing has been that speed is there,” White said. “I’ve thrown some 97s, my fastballs have averaged between 94 and 95, and I’ve had some strikes.”
He throws painless kink balls again, including the diving basket ball.
But there is also some rust.
“My control is not quite back yet,” White said. “My location is not there yet. But everything feels good as far as pitching. I have managed to show that I am healthy and able to compete, The Rangers are not so concerned with the results. They just want me to find the zone, put the ball in the zone. ”
White’s teammates include Luisangel Acuna, the younger brother of Ronald, the Atlanta Braves’ phenomenon; Cole Winn, Rangers’ first round in 2018; third baseman Josh Jung, Texas’ first round in 2019, and second baseman Justin Foscue, first round in 2020.
White has not had to work hard to find positives in the COVID-19 pandemic that drastically changed this baseball season.
There was no minority series in 2020 for potential customers, even the healthy ones, so even though he coped with the extended layoff, White did not lose any ground in Rangers’ farm system.
The MLB draft was limited to five rounds this year, so it is not the normal avalanche of new potential customers pushing into the farm system.
“I’m still working with the guys I was drafted with,” White said. “It’s not like I lost a year for everyone.”
White does not yet know what will come in 2021, but there is little doubt that it will be the year when he finally gets his official pro debut in games where the score matters and the statistics are kept.
He has a daily regimen to follow as far as diet and weight lifting. He is able to play golf again, a hobby he greatly missed during the long months of Tommy John rehabilitation.
Now that he is finally healthy, the goal is to stay that way.
White is quite an athlete when he is in one piece. He was the starting quarterback for Carson football before giving up the sport. He ended his career as the No. 7 scorer in Carson basketball history. He was a fantastic short stop for coach Chris Cauble’s baseball Cougars and holds Carsson’s career batting records for hits (139), scores (92), RBI (82) and doubles (40), as well as pitching records for wins (32-8) and strikes. (358). He swung the bat well enough and set evenly enough that he may have been a two-way college player.
“It’s been a long time since I’d been called – I feel like one of those old guys,” White said with a laugh. “But I have kept a positive attitude towards everything. I have no idea where I will be placed in 2021, but wherever it may be, I am ready to start fighting my way up. ”
Maybe in a few years he will beat Seager in a world series at Globe Life Field.