Mikey White, former Spain Park star, is one of 50 players on the preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award. Photo courtesy of UA Athletics.
University of Alabama shortstop Mikey White is one of 50 players on the preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award given to the country’s top amateur baseball player.
Fitting, then, that when he laces up his spikes this season, the former Spain Park star will be playing on home turf.
Alabama is playing the majority of its home baseball games at the Hoover Met as the Crimson Tide’s Sewell-Thomas Stadium undergoes a $42.6 million renovation and expansion.
White, who was named Mr. Baseball by the Alabama Sports Writers Association after his senior year at Spain Park, is looking forward to the season at the Met.
“I’m really excited about it, getting to see my old high school coaches and all the people from around Spain Park that I know being able to come to my games, my dad not having to make that trip down to Tuscaloosa four or five times a week.
“The Hoover Met was pretty much in my back yard all through high school. Used to go there to see SEC Tournament games all the time, go to Barons games, so it’s pretty cool making that our home field this year.”
White had an outstanding sophomore season for the Tide. He batted .300 for the season, led the team in runs scored with 50, was second on the team in home runs with seven and third on the team in RBIs with 34. He started all 61 games at shortstop — in fact, he’s started every game in his Crimson Tide career.
He was an All-Star selection in the Cape Cod League this past summer, and he worked on being a more consistent hitter, he said.
He also hopes he will bring something else to the team this year.
“I think I’ve just improved on my maturity as a player and my leadership,” White said. “Knowing how to help guys out when they’re struggling, especially the younger guys, helping them through slumps and stuff. Doing the things the older guys did for me.”
Coach Mitch Gaspard’s Alabama (37-24 in 2014) team was ranked No. 20 in the country in the preseason. The Crimson Tide has been a young team the past two seasons. White believes the growing pains will now pay off with experience.
“I think that we’ll be a more experienced group … but I also think our freshmen are going to help us out. The older guys just need to help them through everything.”
Although many Alabama fans who don’t normally get to make it to Tuscaloosa very often will benefit from the Tide playing at the Met, it creates a bit of a logistical issue for the team.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a struggle, having to travel to our home games,” White said. “Go through the grind of playing 56 road games.”
For the Southeastern Conference weekend series, the Crimson Tide will bus up on Friday mornings for that night’s game and stay in a hotel over the weekend, heading back after the Sunday afternoon games. For the single weekday games, they’ll bus up and back the same day.
“I think this team is really talented, and we have our goals locked in our minds,” which White said are to win the SEC, get into postseason play and get to Omaha for the College World Series. “I think we feel like we’re not going to be denied, keep working hard and then I think we’ll end up where we want to be in the end.”
White said the starting pitching — which should include Hoover High product Geoffrey Bramblett — has been an early surprise. Taylor Guilbeau and Will Carter are also slated to be starters.
“They’re not those guys people really know about because we lost (Spencer) Turnbull, (Justin) Kamplain, (Jon) Keller, but I think our weekend rotation is going to surprise some people because they’ve been throwing the ball really well this fall and this spring. I think those pitchers are really going to surprise some people.”
Turnbull and Kamplain signed pro contracts. Keller, who played at Thompson, will miss the entire season after having surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon, a partial ulnar collateral ligament and bone spurs and chips in his arm.
If the starters do come through, at the back end is Thomas Burrows, who was named to the National College Baseball Writers Association’s preseason watch list for Stopper of the Year, awarded to the nation’s top relief pitcher.