Some players are intimidating the moment they arrive at the ballpark. Their size or demeanor just creates an aura that says they can do things others can’t.
Oklahoma freshman Max White doesn’t create that sense at first glimpse, but in half a season of college baseball, he’s already registered some “Wow!” moments.
The first is the home run he hit in OU’s March 31 game against Arkansas Pine Bluff. Granted the wind was blowing out that night, but it hit three-fourths of the way up the light pole in left field. The ball caromed so far it almost landed back in the infield.
“I’ve never even see a guy hit a ball like that, even in batting practice,” OU head coach Sunny Golloway said.
But White can do a lot of things others can’t do.
Garrett Buechele was the Big 12 Conference’s Freshman of the Year last season and is currently batting .372 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs. He’s as good a player as the Sooners have had in over a decade.
Yet, he admits there’s a sense of awe just watching White take batting practice. The line drives off the hitter’s background that never get more than 20 feet off the ground leave an impression.
“You’ll see it, and you’ll be like, ‘I’ll never hit a ball that hard,’” Buechele said.
What’s scary — or a reason to rejoice if you’re an OU baseball fan — is White is just a freshman who’s still getting his feet wet in college baseball. He’s still raw, but he’s hit eight home runs in just 87 at-bats.
White, who’s hitting .368, doesn’t qualify to be among the conference’s statistical leaders because a player must average 21⁄2 at-bats a game. He’ll get there because he’s going to be a mainstay in the Sooner lineup the rest of the year.
“We get him going, and we’ll be able to hurt some people,” Golloway said.
White’s played second base and he’ll start in the outfield when OU (27-10, 6-7 Big 12) opens a three-game series at Texas A&M (21-14-1, 6-7-1). Don’t be surprised if he takes the mound a couple times before the season is over.
Even without a full-time position, White has still flourished because nothing seems to bother him.
“I try not to think too much,” he said. “I try to see what happens and react to it. My approach is keeping a clear mind and do what I can do.”
Golloway admits he didn’t know that would be the case when he signed White out of Durant High School last year. White’s talent was obvious, but there wasn’t a thought it would translate into this much success this fast.
Then again, White wasn’t selected in major league draft last summer. He had other offers from Big 12 Conference schools, but he wasn’t high on anyone’s radar. That was how White wanted it.
He never attended the summer showcase events that put players in front of baseball scouts. He spent his summers playing for Durant’s American Legion team. He got a scholarship offer from OU and that was good enough for him.
“This was it. I was always an OU guy,” he said.
OU’s glad he is. He’s only played 31 games in a Sooner uniform, but White has laid the foundation for a very memorable career. It doesn’t take a grizzled veteran to see it.
Golloway’s 10-year-old son, Callen, has served as OU’s bat boy since he was old enough to carry a bat. During that time, he’s always worn the same number as his father.
“He came home the other day and said, ‘Dad, next year I’m wearing No. 7,’” Golloway said.
The same number as White.
John Shinn 366-3536 email@example.com