(First, just a reminder to also check out Toby's latest weekly Minor League Report just below this story, also posted on brewerfan.net just prior to this article.)
Things worked out nicely Monday night July 8th, as I made the 30-mile trek to the most convenient of the Cape Cod League locations for me, Wareham, as I had a nice 20-minute conversation with the Brewers' unsigned 18th round pick, RHP Steven White, a 2001 All-American out of Baylor University.
Arriving a full two hours before game time, my 6-year-old daughter and I pulled into the lot as the Wareham club was taking BP. The players on White's team from Orleans hadn't even begun stretching yet, but were just kind of hanging out by the 3rd base fence. We climbed the empty bleacher seats just above the fence, and I asked if Steven White was around. He was sitting on the ground right below us, about six feet away! I showed him a Brewer wall hanging I had brought and he smiled. He joined us on the empty bleachers and spoke with me; my daughter, in her Brewer shirt as well, fortunately was pre-occupied by the Wareham BP, but Steven also did play toss with her as I had brought a tennis ball and her glove for just that purpose. This glove was her "toy" glove, and somehow it's a Houston Astros model (shame on me). But that's Steven's home town (League City, a suburb), so he got a kick out of that.
A legitimate 6'5" (my neck hurts) and lean, Steven was a total class act. In fact, my only problem with him was that he repeatedly called me "sir" in his Houston drawl after I told him to call me Jim. I gave him a printout of the Brewerfan homepage; he does have a laptop, and will likely see this. Thanks again, Steven! Feel free to post on the 2002 draft portion of the Fan Forum if I mis-represent anything here.
I'm sure Steven was surprised to see a Brewer fan hunting him down on Cape Cod. I think I asked about two "so, how are you?" small-talk questions before basically asking him if we were going to see his name on a Brewers' contract this summer.
It was very clear that Steven was disappointed and most likely very surprised to go as late as the 18th round. He certainly has nothing against the Brewers - he said it'd be great to be able to help out the organization, and he was bumming that he was going to miss seeing all the All-Star activities live at Miller Park this week due to his game schedule, when I hinted about that night's Richie Sexson appearance in the Home Run Derby.
A little perspective here - in 2001, during his sophomore year, White went 10-3 with a 3.49 ERA in 15 starts at Baylor, and was named First Team All Big 12, obviously a super year topped with a monster recognition. Steven then had a very impressive Cape Cod League summer in Falmouth (3-1, 1.75 ERA in 51.1 IP, with only 34 hits allowed, 17 BB, 56 K - wow!), further garnering the attention of scouts everywhere. On top of the world, so to speak...
In his just completed 2002 junior season at Baylor, White finished at 5-4 with a 4.95 ERA in 16 starts. After getting off to a 4-0 start to his season, Steven told me that he simply was leaving a few too many balls up in the zone, and unfortunately, batters were taking advantage, and some of his less successful late season performances were against prominent Big 12 teams, which probably placed them in a brighter light for the professional scouts. Steven said his arm and health has been fine throughout.
It was after his super 2001 season that agent Scott Boras made contact with Steven. I asked White if he felt that that if he felt being a Boras client affected his draft round status, and he didn't think that was the case at all. It seemed Steven was flattered that Boras contacted him ("the best", Steven said) , and he was happy to be with him.
From what Steven understands and as we had heard previously from Jim Powell during a Brewer radio broadcast, the Brewers are monitoring him closely on the Cape. (Just prior to the draft, White had no Cape Cod plans. He was sure he'd be playing pro ball; once he slipped to the 18th round, things changed. A player who had committed to Orleans earlier ended up going pro, and a spot opened for Steven which he chose to take. He "enjoyed" his 21st birthday while making the long drive up from Texas - oh, well.)
White said that he had spoken to New England Area Scout Tommy Tanous prior to his most recent start, his third start this summer. I am kicking myself a bit for not asking specifically what they discussed, but even if I did know, I'd hold that information back in deference to Tanous and what he's done to assist brewerfan.net in the past. And that's also not to say that Tanous is the only scout on the Cape right now; with the talent assembled here during a relatively "slower" time for amateur scouts, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that other Brewer scouts are in the area.
Here are the three Cape starts for White thus far in 2002:
6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K
5 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
5 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K
White threw a bullpen session Monday night ( I didn't stick around for the game, the little one had to be home early for summer school the next day; Orleans lost, 9-7), and his next scheduled start is Thursday the 12th. It's a six-man rotation; look for Steven to get five-six more starts.
Steven looks forward to a long career involved with baseball - he hopes to stay in the game coaching after his (hopefully) long pro career ends. He's majoring in Human Performance at Baylor; he expressed that he had hoped Baylor had a more formal Sports Management degree program. But there was absolutely no doubting his love for the game.
White seemed to indicate that the Brewers hadn't made a formal offer as of yet, or at least one that he would consider before enhancing his stock in Cape League ball. But there's no doubt that the Brewers are at the very least closely watching him. Certainly, if he does sign, it will be because the organization offers much more than 18th round money - that's my assumption, which seems obvious - not White's words.
Again, I apologize to Steven because these aren't exact quotes as this was a very "informal" interview, but he did say he's willing to head back to Baylor for his senior year. But it seemed pretty clear that wasn't the game plan a year ago. I did my best to tell him how beautiful Ogden, Utah is this time of year, but the Cape League playoffs extend through August, so any pro appearance in 2002 is unlikely, even if he were to sign.
I also reminded Steven of the Manny Parra draft-and-follow process, and that 2001's 26th-rounder was now a millionaire. Not being brewerfan's expert in the world of the amateur draft, it seems more likely that your draft-and-follows are your first and second year two-year college players weighing the opportunity to attend a four-year school. Not sure how many players coming off strong senior years in college choose to forgo another shot in the draft by signing with their prior year's draft club. While I imagine that the Brewers could make a wonderful pre-draft offer to White next June, it's pretty apparent that if White re-enters school this fall, he'd wait to see where he fell in the 2003 draft.
Of course, this means that because Steven signed a Brewer ball and my wall hanging, the Brewers had better sign him in August or re-draft him next year if these autographs are truly going to be worth anything some day....
Perhaps later this summer I'll check out the real atmosphere of Cape League action and report on that, as my newfound interest in amateur and especially minor league ball has been spiked by the advent of brewerfan.net in recent years. The home parks range from Wareham (30 miles away) to wouldn't-you-know-it, Orleans, down nearer the tip 100 miles away. Last night was Steven's longest road trip of the year. We briefly discussed life on Cape Cod in the summer; it's not all a day at the beach - Steven's working at a CVS pharmacy five days a week.
This could be a lesson to the family of 2002 Brewer 16th round lefty Dana Eveland, coming off a nice freshman year of junior college ball and weighing an offer from UCLA. Since you can't cash in immediately after a nice sophomore season at a four-year school, the stakes are very high during that junior year, as I imagine White has learned.
Thanks again to possible future Brewer Steven White for helping me make another Brewer connection here in the northeast...