As you may or may not be aware, there are certain non-baseball sports that have managed to achieve some level of popularity among America's general populace. One of these, termed "foot-ball", involves groups of eleven men disputing the possession of a skinned pig, or something along those lines. I'm not really clear on the details, but they aren't all that important. Anyhow, one of the main organizations involved in this sport, the National Foot-Ball League, apparently just completed its version of spring training, a process that involved the release of numerous foot-ball players into the exciting world of civilian life. One of these players, a former employee of the Miami Dolphins named Patrick White , may be moderately familiar to those of our readers from West Virginia.
As a good baseball fan, you are no doubt wondering by now why I am yammering on with dull tidbits about some irrelevant non-baseball activity. Please do not close your browser window! I am coming to the point!
You see, before young Mr. White was seduced into a life of grid-ironry, he was once a highly-touted amateur baseball player. During his high school days in Alabama, prior to the 2004 draft, no less a publication than Baseball America described him thus :
An all-state football player as an option quarterback, White has a scholarship to West Virginia (he changed his mind on signing day, eschewing an oral commitment to Louisiana State) that complicates his signability. He has emerged this spring as the best athlete in the prep class. White is an explosive runner whose quick hands at the plate and power potential evoke Devon White comparisons, and his power/speed combination is unmatched in the state. He hit .487-12-48 with 26 stolen bases this spring. To see White's power, scouts have to watch him take batting practice; his approach means it's usually absent during games. He's shown more polish than expected in center field, and may not make it out of the third round.
They graded him as a second-to-fifth round talent, and the 119th-best player available in that year's draft. The Angels selected him with the 113th pick in that draft, the 12th pick of the 4th round, but were unable to convince him to sign with them. White did not play baseball for West Virginia during his time with the gold and blue, due in part to a dispute with the team's coach . In spite of this, baseball remained interested in Patrick White. He was drafted by the Angels in 2007 (27th round), the Reds in 2008 (49th round), and the Yankees in 2009 (48th round), purely in the hope that he would abandon this foot-ball foolishness and return to his true calling: the national pastime. He remains an elite athlete and an intriguing physical talent.
White's NFL career has not gone well , and he appears to be running out of options. He might be able to scratch out a living as a wide receiver , although he has disdained that possibility in the past, and he would have a steep learning curve ahead of him as he is no longer eligible for a NFL practice squad. A baseball career seems like an intriguing alternative, and it's one that White himself has voiced in the past . At 24, he is old for a prospect with his lack of experience, but his scenario is not without precedent - Hall of Fame center fielder Earl Averill , for example, did not play organized baseball until he turned 24, preferring to work as a florist.
As White was not selected in the 2010 MLB draft, he would be free to sign with any team he likes, and the Pirates offer several advantages. First, as 2010 Pirates draftee Mel Rojas noted, the team's lack of recent success provides plenty of potential for rapid advancement to prospects who perform well. Second, in the Power we have one of only three West Virginia teams in the affiliated minors (the Bluefield Orioles and the Princeton Rays are the others), a welcoming and somewhat familiar environment in which for White to develop while he makes the transition to a new sport. Third, our most recent draft class was very light on outfielders (or, indeed, position players of any sort), so slotting him into the everyday lineup would not be much of an obstacle. Fourth, we've proven very willing to open the wallet for deserving amateur talent these past few seasons, and White's NFL draft bonus ($2.4M in guaranteed money) won't last forever.
Under Huntington and Coonelly, the Pirates have taken pains to acquire talent from all manner of unconventional sources. Lithuania. India. South Africa. The US Army. Why not take a chance on an unconventional prospect from our own back yard?