When searching for role models on the baseball diamond, Oakland A’s 2015 second-round draft pick Mikey White always looked to the “grinders” of the game, the Dustin Pedroias and David Ecksteins. However, when White needed guidance for how to maximize his talents, he looked closer to home.
White’s father, Mike, is a former football player at the University of Alabama who served in the U.S. Navy after his football career ended, eventually spending 11 years as a member of the elite Navy SEALs unit. Mikey credits his dad with teaching him the work ethic he has used to become one of the top-65 picks the 2015 MLB Draft class.
“My dad taught me to try to be the best at something,” White said a day after he was selected with the 63rd overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. “He would go out there everyday with me taking batting practice or groundballs for hours and hours. He instilled that work ethic and that mentality in me.”
White parlayed that work ethic into a standout three-year career at his father’s alma mater. The younger White started all 184 games he played in for the Crimson Tide and became the centerpiece of the Alabama baseball team, according to the Tuscaloosa News. White improved each season he was at Alabama, going from a 735 OPS as a freshman to an 842 OPS as a sophomore and posting a career-best 981 OPS this year as a junior.
White credits his improvement each season to making adjustments and learning to stay focused on each play.
“My freshman year, I didn’t really know what to expect,” White said. “I kind of let the game get the best of me sometimes. As I got older and learned more about the game, I was able to slow it down and make adjustments during the games. I just tried to take it at-bat by at-bat and really slow the game.”
Playing in the grueling Southeastern Conference, White learned to measure himself against the elite talents in the NCAA.
“Playing in the SEC, you see great players and great arms every weekend,” White said. “It really challenges you and really have to, like I said, learn how to slow the game down and not get too frustrated at times. You have to enjoy the game and enjoy the challenges that the SEC brings to you. You just need to make those adjustments, enjoy that challenge and play your best baseball.”
One of the players White faced in the SEC was Florida shortstop Richie Martin, who was selected in the first round by the A’s earlier on Day One of the draft. White is looking forward to competing with Martin rather than against him.
“We played Florida the past few years and every time we’d get to second base, we’d talk a little bit,” White said of Martin. “He seems like a really good guy. I’m excited be his teammate. I’m really looking forward to getting to know him and playing along side him.”
One of the biggest challenges for any college hitter turning pro is the switch from the metal bats to the wood bats. White used wood bats during his two stints in the prestigious Cape Cod League. White fared well with wood, posting a nearly 1000 OPS in 36 games spread over two summers. White is confident in his abilities to make the permanent switch to the lumber, but he knows it will be yet another adjustment.
”It’s definitely a little different going from swinging metal to swinging wood. I kind of grew up in the summers hitting with wood and I’m comfortable with a wood bat in my hands, but it takes a little bit of an adjustment,” White said. “You can’t get beat by a fastball because it will break the bat, but I’m still pretty comfortable with the wood bat in my hands.”
While White didn’t have any specific inkling that the A’s were going to select him leading into the draft, he says that he had heard from them throughout the spring. He is heading to Arizona soon to take his physical and hopefully sign his contract.
White is excited to get his professional career underway.
“It’s your profession and it’s awesome that a game is your profession,” White said. “I’m really excited about that aspect of it and getting to play everyday. I’m one of those guys who loves playing the game and you’ll see me out there laughing and goofing around. I love being on the field and I’m looking forward to doing that everyday.”