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Spartans’ White plays both sides of the plate

Andrew White shakes off catchers. All the time. He tries to stifle a laugh but can’t hide the smirk when he talks about how he frustrates every guy who catches him.

That’s what happens when one of the best guys behind the plate in Western New York high school baseball takes to the mound.

“I’m naturally a catcher so when I’m on the mound I still try to call games,” White said. “It really frustrates my catchers. A lot.

“I think about more than what some guys would because I still see the game from the perspective of a catcher. I think about situations more than what a normal pitcher would.”

White hasn’t pitched much for his Williamsville North team, an inning here or there. The senior has pitched much of his life, but spent his high school career using his baseball IQ behind the plate for the Spartans.

That changed dramatically over the summer.

“I’ve done both my whole life, but I went to a national team tryout up in Boston that I got invited to last summer and I was doing a catching drill and the scout for the Tampa Bay Rays asked me to pitch,” White said. “He gave me a call back and I pitched in the call back. That’s where I really started.”

He continued to pitch in the summer for The Academy All Stars, further capturing the notice of the University at Buffalo coaching staff. White signed his National Letter of Intent to pitch for the Bulls this fall.

“He has a real strong arm, and we thought that was something that could transition to being on the mound so we pursued it that way,” UB coach Ron Torgalski said. “We watched him throw over the summer and decided he was a guy who can help us get better.”

White’s high school coach, Jerry Scarsella, can’t say enough about White’s feel for the game. For the last few years he has let White call the game behind the plate on his own – a trust and freedom he has rarely before bestowed on a catcher.

“Andrew has really good hands and good feel for the game. He just understands,” Scarsella said. “He has a good feel for hitters, a quick release and he calls a really good game. He’s one of the few catchers I’ve trusted to call a game by himself. Andrew just takes over.”

How does that translate when he’s on the mound? First, the strength of his arm comes into play, then his knowledge of the game.

“He throws really hard, probably touching 90 sometimes, and he has a good breaking ball,” said Scarsella, who will have White in his starting rotation for Williamsville North this season. “He’s learning the feel from the mound a little bit. There are times where he throws the ball hard, but he’s still learning to get the feel on the mound.”

He’s learning his touch, but he knows what he wants to do.

“Catchers are guys thinking for everybody,” Torgalski said. “When he’s calling a game, he has an idea of how a hitter is standing and what he’s done, he watches his swing. From a catching standpoint, as far as studying hitters, that will help his transition going from catching to pitching. He understands hitters, what they’re looking for and what pitches might be effective.”

“You gotta get a feel for each guy on the mound and what’s working that day,” White said. “Some days their fastball is not working, and we’ll go with a breaking ball. You gotta know what you threw to the batter the time before. If he swung and missed on a curve ball and you know he can’t hit it, you’re going to throw it to him again. It’s just about the feel of the game.”

He’ll start to get a feel for when not to shake his catcher off as he takes more turns on the mound. Until then, White is focused on leading a senior-heavy Spartan team in ECIC I. “We’re a bunch of seniors, so we all have the leadership qualities we need and we’re all coming together when we need to,” White said. “I think the rest of the season should be fun. We should win a lot of games. We want to go out with a bang for sure.”