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College  | Story  | 12/7/2021

The PG Path: Tommy White

Craig Cozart     
Photo: Tommy White (Perfect Game)
The PG Path: Max Carlson | Josh Hartle | Alex Mooney

"Sure, I steal bases. I just like to do it four at a time." -Paul Konerko

We had the opportunity to catch up with former Perfect Game All-American and current North Carolina State University infielder, Tommy White, to ask him about his experiences that have led him to where he is today. We appreciate him taking the time out of his busy schedule and hope we can all learn a few things from his path thus far in baseball and in life.

PG: What was your first experience or memory with the incredible game of baseball?

White: It was having a ball and bat in my hand and playing around the house when I was probably 2 years old. I was just naturally drawn to baseball, and I would hit and throw with my dad and never wanted to put the bat down.

PG: How old were you when you started playing organized baseball?

White: I started playing t-ball rec league as soon as I could. You were supposed to be 5 years old, but I was probably 3 or 4 when I got going and always played up several age groups until I started playing competitive level travel ball. When I was 9 years old or so I started playing on the travel circuit in mostly local events until I got to high school.

PG: Who are a few of the most influential people in your baseball life to this point?

White: Definitely my dad, he really helped me stay the course so to speak. Early in my high school career I wasn’t one of the better players on the field and he encouraged me to try to outwork everyone I was competing against. He would say, “Stay the course” and you will pass the players that aren’t as dedicated or putting in the time. Other than my dad, my first travel ball coach, Bobby Hunter, had a big impact on my career. He was a soft-spoken guy but was someone I could always go to for great advice. He is still there for me to this day and is like a second father for me.

PG: What travel ball organization did you play with most of your amateur career?

White: I played with the Florida Burn for my entire high school aged travel ball time and I had a great experience with an awesome organization. That is when things really started to pick up for me and the game got a lot more competitive.

PG: You played high school ball at IMG Academy (FL) for your senior year, one of the best teams in the nation last year. How was that experience and what are some things that stood out to you about your time there?

White: It was honestly a lot of fun, getting to hang around with a bunch of guys that have the same athletic goals and high-end talent was a blast. Because of the amount of talent on that team we always played in front of 20 to 30 scouts every game, so that was great from a development standpoint. It was really challenging because you felt like you had to always be on your game since your every move was being scrutinized. There was definitely a lot more pressure but that made it more fun because it was such high-level competition.

PG: When you hear the words Perfect Game Baseball, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

White: Definitely the All-American Game, ever since I started playing PG events, I had that as one of the main goals for me personally. Growing up and watching the game on TV, I knew that was something that I wanted to accomplish, and it really fueled me during my high school career. PG was the first organization to notice when my bat started to take off and get to the next level. So, even to this day when I think about PG, I think All-American.

PG: What was your favorite Perfect Game venue and why?

White: It has to be Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. To put in all the work it took to get to that venue, it was great to be able to just go out and have fun. The downtown area had a great feel to it, the energy in the stadium was awesome and there were a bunch of scouts there, but we just went out and played the game. Definitely one of the best experiences of my baseball life so far.

PG: What was your favorite Perfect Game event and why?

White: Outside of the All-American Game it was probably Ft. Myers or East Cobb. I liked it when the WWBA moved to East Cobb, but it wasn’t always the best for my swing since the fields are a little smaller and I tried to hit too many home runs. I tried to do too much, got out of my legs and got way to pull-oriented. But Ft. Myers was always great to me being close to home and knowing the tradition of the ballparks down there.

PG: For years you have been known for your raw power and elite bat-to-ball skills. To what do you attribute those talents, and do you have any unique training methods you could share with younger players?

White: Baseball is a hard game, so just stay the course and keep working. I didn’t really have anything unique that I do that separates me from other bats, my power is a God given gift and I don’t take it for granted. I do train a lot swinging the bat, you don’t have to be big and strong to find pop. You just have to figure out how your swing works and be calm in the box. It shouldn’t matter if the pitcher is throwing 85 mph or 95 mph, you have to keep the same relaxed rhythm and just be on time.

PG: You had the opportunity to participate in home run derbies across the nation and it seems like most of the time you won. What was the most memorable of those events and how did you perform so consistently in that environment?

White: To be honest, for me it was a different swing, I had my home run derby swing, and I had my game swing. It’s hard to explain but when I get into these home run derbies it’s like there’s a switch for me and I almost use an angry swing. All I try to do is elevate the ball to the pull side at the right angle, and that’s nothing like I want my game swing to be. When I get eager in the box in a home run derby, I can get away with it but if I am eager in the box in a game that’s not a good place for me to be.

PG: You have the build of an old-school power hitter at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. That being said, you move very well on the infield, your glove work is tremendous, and you have plus arm strength. Do you feel like it was an advantage growing up in Florida and what did you do to develop your game on the defensive side?

White: So, growing up in Florida, I was just an average player compared to others as I was growing up. It really wasn’t until I was 15 that things really started to come together for me. Looking back on it, growing up in Florida was an advantage because it forced me to work harder to distinguish myself from the rest of the talent here. When I made the high school team, it was loaded with talent and the only open spot on the infield was at third base. Christian Cairo was our shortstop and I just watched him and tried to mimic his every move, from his glovework to his angles and the quickness of his actions. His father played for 17 years in the Big Leagues and helped coach our high school team and taught me so much about playing a corner infield position.

PG: Do you feel Perfect Game had an impact on your development as a player, if so, how?

White: Definitely, I think the intensity of the tournaments and the number of games you play really taught you mental toughness. Plus, I think being forced to use wood bats and learning to adjust is a big deal. If you learn to hit with wood, then you get yourself to the next level offensively.

PG: You were a Perfect Game All-American, what does that mean to you to this day?

White: Of course, I use that as motivation to drive me on to the next step. I want to play at the highest level both collegiately and professionally, so I keep that in the back of my head.

PG: What was your favorite MLB team growing up and why?

White: Tampa Bay Rays, I live about 15 minutes from the stadium. They always seem to be the underdog in every situation but find a way to get it done. We had season tickets in left field, so I was a Carl Crawford fan since he was a fixture in the outfield for so long. Once I started figuring out my swing, I became a Miguel Cabrera fan since I try to use the same approach as he does. He’s the best at using the backside gap and hitting oppo bombs.

PG: You were projected to be a high round pick in last year’s MLB Amateur Draft. The draft is far from an exact science but what could you tell us about that process last year and what advice would you give to players that may be in that same situation in the future?

White: It was quite time consuming with the meetings, the questionnaires, the eye tests, etc. But you have to be able to separate all of that from what you do on the field and stay focused on getting yourself physically ready to play. Control what you can control, don’t overthink the interviews, just let your talent and performance speak for itself between the lines.

PG: What advice would you give younger players when it comes to positioning themselves to be recruited by colleges?

White: I think it’s really important for players to pick the schools that match their interests and get to their camps. Camps give you a chance to get to know the coaching staff, experience their coaching styles and learn their overall philosophies. Be realistic with yourself and stay focused on the programs that are showing the most interest in you. There are a lot of great baseball programs out there, so be open to all the options that come your way.

PG: You are playing collegiately at North Carolina State University, why did you choose the Wolf Pack?

White: It was simple, I told my father that the first good offer that I get from a Power 5 school that has a chance to go to Omaha I’m going to take it. I wanted to go to a school that wanted to develop me the way I am and not completely change my game. I felt like NC State understood me as a person and a player better than anyone else. They were the first program to take a chance on me and I know I made the right choice.

PG: What has been the best part of your first fall at NC State and how have you grown as an individual?

White: Just walking into the clubhouse every day and seeing the guys is the highlight of my day and I love this team. It’s great to suit up each day with the same group of guys who have a common goal. My time management is much better with the academic demands, and I have really matured on the field. The older guys on the team have been great in showing us the way things are done here at State, the chemistry is awesome.

PG: What has been the biggest challenge in your career thus far and what could young players learn from your experience?

White: A while back I had to play through some injuries and figure out how to push through things mentally and still perform. You learn a lot about yourself when you face those type of challenges and it’s important to know the difference between playing with pain versus trying to play when injured. It’s easy to go out and perform when you feel 100% but another to produce when you may have some pain.

PG: Baseball players in general are notorious for being very routine-oriented and at times superstitious. Do you have any traditions, maybe a go to pre-game meal, or do you have any interesting superstitions you would be willing to share?

White: No superstitions, but I do like to listen to my pregame playlist and lighten the mood if things are too tight. My playlist is a mix of rap and old-school rock like Led Zeppelin, so quite a bit of variety.

PG: We live in a world where social media is prevalent, what is your favorite platform and what do you like to post?

White: I guess I am most frequently on Instagram and will mostly post baseball related content.

PG: Lastly, now that you have had a vast array of baseball experiences, what do you know now that you wish you knew back when you first started playing at a high level?

White: I wish I had a better understanding of what it was going to take to get to this level so I could have set a better foundation earlier in life. I feel like I had to play catch up in my early high school years and I could have set my goals a bit higher. But I love where I am with my game and am excited and optimistic about what the future holds. So, make the most of each day no matter where you are in your development.

. . .

We hope you enjoyed this episode of The PG Path and getting to know Tommy White a little better. Hopefully you were able to gain some valuable insight and perspective from our conversation. Be on the lookout for the next installment of the PG Path coming soon!