Friday Feature: Meet Brian White

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Brian White looks on from the dugout during a Florence Freedom baseball game at UC Health Stadium

MARCH 13, 2020

Aaron Brodie

Florence Y'alls Staff Writer

 

FRIDAY FEATURE:

"Meet Brian White"

FLORENCE, Ky-- Welcome to another edition of "Friday Feature" a journalistic up close and personal with the men at the center of the Florence Y'alls inaugural season in 2020.

Y'all aboard?

Today, I spoke with Y'alls Field Manager, Brian White, who spent the better part of the past five seasons as the Pitching/Catching Coach and right-hand man of former skipper, Dennis Pelfrey.  White is shoving off on his maiden voyage as a manager for a club that will make their debut in a Frontier League that merged with the Canadian-American Association in the off-season...still with me?

Call it a major transition year to say the least.

That being said, when the aforementioned "Pelf" accepted the role of manager for the San Jose Giants, the Advanced A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, there wasn't a soul connected to the club in Florence that thought Brian White wouldn't be the perfect choice to step up to the plate. Perhaps at the end of this Q&A you will understand why:

Q: How did you find out you were going to be the first Field Manager in Y'alls history and what was the first thing you did after finding out?

A: I interviewed for the job on a Sunday morning and I was suppose to hear back within 24-48 hours. I don’t hear back for a few days so I’m losing sleep every night over-analyzing the situation. Thursday comes around and still no word about what direction they’re leaning towards or who they’re going to hire. So I call David that morning and it went to voicemail and he texts me that he’s in a meeting and he would get back to me later. So now I’m thinking that they went in a different direction. About 6-7 hours later, I get a call from GM Josh Anderson telling me that they want to hire me for the Managing position and I’m holding in how fired up I am about it. David gets on the line to congratulate me and what steps we need to take moving forward. So we get off of the phone and I’m at my indoor facility and I let out a “LET’S GO!” so I have people looking at me like what’s going on. But I’m just fired up that something I have been working on for the last 5 years or so that I’m seeing results start to really pay off. I call my dad and share the news, leave work early to go grab a drink with my parents and sister and that’s basically how the night went.

Q: When and how did you fall in love with the game of baseball? Was there a singular moment you knew you were going to pursue being a coach? Was being a manager always the dream? 

A:  I’ve always loved the game of baseball ever since I could remember. My parents tell me stories about when I was an infant / toddler, they would sit my rocker in front of the TV when I would cry to get me to stop crying. So I guess I have always had that love for the game for as along as I can remember. As far as when I knew I wanted to make a career out of this. I kind of fell into coaching on accident. I finished my school year at Texas Wesleyan and I still needed a few more classes to graduate. So we have our exit meetings and our head coach asked if I wanted to come back as a graduate assistant. So I went that route initially since it was helping pay for my school and I just kind of kept doing it because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. Then I remember this day pretty clearly when I knew I wanted to manage. I was driving out to Florida to look at some players and I called Pelf and started asking him some real questions about being a manager and how he had to alter his lifestyle in order to do that. It was more questions about life than actually managing. And after that phone call, that’s when I knew what I really wanted to do with my career moving forward.

Q: You’re known around these parts as the best pitching coach in league, but you were a catcher! Describe how your experiences in pro-ball helped you master the art of pitching.

A: The best pitching coach in the league, that’s quite the compliment. And yes, I was a catcher, never pitched after high school. And even then, I never really pitched outside of summer league games. But I actually got really lucky with the people I was surrounded with. I’ve always had a good idea on how to call a game from being a catcher, and picking up on the basic mechanics. But once I got the pitching coach job, I was constantly asking Chad Rhoades questions on what to look for and how to talk to these guys on a level that they’re going to understand and how to make them better. And the more I listened and watched videos, the more I realized it’s very similar to hitting. You can make all of these quick fixes that you want, but finding the root of the problem and starting from there, that’s when I started to see real results with our guys. And then teaching them how to read swings and talking to our guys how certain hitters think in the box as well as how to work counts in an efficient way, that all came through asking questions and analyzing every swing I can. But like I said earlier, I got really lucky by knowing the right people around me that were willing to help me out whenever I asked. And I still use those recourses to this day. I’m constantly trying to see how I can help guys get better.

Q: What were the most important attributes of a manager YOU looked for as a player? 

A: As a player, I just wanted a manager that would communicate. It’s never a good feeling as a player when you have no clue what’s going on. That’s something that Pelf does real well. He grabs the players trust with communication.  Even when he has news for the guys that they probably don’t want to hear, he makes sure that they’re aware of their situation or role. So to me, it would have to go – communication/trust, work ethic, organization – in no particular order. But I feel like those three attributes are a must if you want to have any kind of sustainable success.

Q: If players were asked at seasons end what your style of managing was, what would you hope they said?

A: I hope they say consistent. I want to be consistent in my values as a manager throughout the entire year. It’s easy for those things to go good when you’re winning games. But when things aren’t going our way at any point during the season, that’s even more important to keep those values in place to weather the storm.

Q: Florence teams under Dennis Pelfrey were built through pitching and defense with an offensive identity centered around team speed and on-base percentage. What will be the identity of Y’alls baseball under your leadership?

A: We want to keep that same brand of baseball. There’s a reason Florence had as much success as we have had over the last 5 years. And that goes back to the style of players that are in the clubhouse. I do want to put a little more of an emphasis on taking care of the routine plays. But as far as the whole style of play, I’ve been on the same page with what Pelf has created over the last few years.

Q: Take us through the blockbuster trade that sent Isaac Benard, Mike Castellani and Cam Hatch to the Sussex County Miners bringing home the great, Jose Brizuela and Evy Ruibal.

A: This wasn’t an easy decision. I went back and forth a lot on this. I actually ran into Bobby Jones in New Jersey back in January and asked about Brizzy and he shut down the idea pretty quick. Then 3-4 weeks later he reached out to me about possibly moving him and what it would cost. So the talks went on and off for a little while about different scenarios and we couldn’t get on the same page. And when this package came up, it was tough. Castellani was a big time arm for us last year. He dominated innings pitched and ERA. So I know exactly what he brings to the table for us and how he helps our bullpen every time he takes the mound. Isaac is a great player who has great gap to gap power and I just signed Cam Hatch this off-season and had great plans for him to help us win. But when you have the opportunity to get an MVP caliber bat to stick in your 3 hole everyday, it’s hard to pass up. And with the pieces we were trading to Sussex, it would open up an experience slot in the bullpen to beef up the back end. So once the trade was finalized, I got a hold of Evy and let him know that we wanted to bring him in to Florence to compete for a job in the back end of the pen. So looking at the potential roster with Jose and Evy on there, I felt that the team got better overall. And it’s tough because you develop these personal relationships with the players, but my job is to help make Florence better as an organization.

Q: The club lost in Game 5 of the Frontier League Championship Series last season but see a bunch of contributors coming back to make up this exciting inaugural Y'alls team. What will it take from this group to get them over the hump?

A: We’ve been close 2 out of the last 3 years on bringing home a trophy to Florence. Unfortunately, we came up short both times. But I know our guys in Florence love to compete and they love to win. We have the talent in the clubhouse, but we have to make sure that we put our ego’s to the side and be better at the small parts in the game that can turn wins into losses. By that, I’m talking about not being afraid to sac bunt, move the guy over from second, being a little more aggressive with our secondary leads on the bases and anticipating more consistently. Taking care of the baseball a little better on defense and making the right decisions with the ball. Small parts of the game that go unnoticed a lot of the time, I think we can do better at that. And if our guys are able to buy into that philosophy, I think our chances increase on winning a championship.

Q: As you know, a bit of a tradition was started last season. What do you say to a weekly half-hour "Brian White Show" on our YouTube channel and wearing a live mic during games?

A: (laughs) Yes, I'll do both. Give me a little bit to get used to the camera though, I need some practice. (laughs)

The great Brian White, ladies and gents!

You heard it there first...you'll be seeing a lot more of him.

See you next Friday!