Always a Trojan
Tucked along the first base line near the visiting dugout, a row of camouflaged Chase Trojan hats stood out in stark contrast to the red and black throughout the rest of John Henry Moss Stadium. The reason? Former Trojan Tyler White and the rest of the Western Carolina Catamounts had come to Boiling Springs to take on the Runnin’ Bulldogs Wednesday. Many of White’s family, friends, and former Trojan teammates crossed county lines to take in the contest.
“It’s always nice to play close to home,” said White after a 5-2 WCU victory. “Whether it is here in Boiling Springs or at McNair Field during the summer when I was playing for the (Gastonia) Grizzlies, it feels great to know that so many people have come to watch you play.”
While White enjoys playing close to home, he admits that there is also added pressure every time he does.
“Even though I’m a senior now, I can’t help but get nervous,” he said. “I want to do well in front of the people who have always supported me and that’s a lot of pressure. I always seem to strike out my first at bat, but then I settle down and just play baseball and I normally have a solid game.”
White has been more than just solid so far in his senior season. In spite of an 0-3 performance against Gardner-Webb that included the obligatory first at bat strikeout. He still leads WCU in homeruns (8), RBIs (25), and ranks third on the team with a .318 average.
White’s power surge is no accident.
“The coaches told me I needed me to hit for more power this year,” he said. “I didn’t think that it would be that big of a difference, but it is. I had to change my whole approach at the plate. Last year, I would swing at every pitch I thought I could hit. This year, I let some of them go and pick a pitch I can really put the barrel on and drive. That approach hurts my average a little bit, but it has caused my power numbers to go up and that’s what the team needs.”
Led by White’s increased pop at the plate, WCU (14-12) has garnered several wins over teams from power conferences, including Washington State, Wake Forest and Georgia.
“It’s very satisfying for a small school like Western to beat a big school like Georgia or Wake,” White said. “They come in and think they are supposed to beat you just because you are a smaller school. When you play well and beat them though, it just feels so good.”
As important as those wins against BCS teams are, White says that winning conference games are more vital.
“The conference games are what really count,” he said. “In fact, I think our biggest wins this year are when we won a road series at College of Charleston. That was a huge step for our team because we had not won down there in a long time. We are continuing to get even better and I think by the end of the year, we will be conference champions. That’s our goal.”
No matter what happens during the final months of White’s Catamount career, baseball is a part of his future plans.
“I’m not getting a lot of looks from scouts right now, so I might not get drafted, but I do plan on going to several workouts and tryouts to try to make a team,” he said. “If not, then I’ll go play in an independent league somewhere. I just can’t see myself not playing baseball.”
For now though, White is focused on leading Western Carolina to a conference title.
“That’s all I’m worried about right now. I just want to do whatever I can to help my team win," White said. "There will be plenty of time to think about the future once the season is over.”
White and the rest of the Catamounts continue their quest for a conference championship as they host Citadel this weekend.