It’s September, which in baseball terms means it’s time for the rookies to get their shot at the big leagues.
For rookies making their first major league appearances after rosters are expanded to 40 players, September offers an all-too-brief month of traveling first class and playing in the big ballparks before it’s off to winter-league play.
For other rookies or journeymen, the September visit provides another chance to impress the parent club’s bosses that they belong on a regular basis.
Devon White belongs to the second category. He made his first appearance at Anaheim Stadium last September, but he’s still fairly wide-eyed about the big time.
Technically--and it’s an important technicality--White isn’t even a September rookie. The Angels, impressed with White’s .291 batting average at Edmonton, officially recalled him on Aug. 30.
That makes White eligible for the playoffs and World Series, should the Angels make it that far, and that possibility pleases White to no end.
“Let’s not get carried away here,” White said before Wednesday’s game against Baltimore in Anaheim Stadium. “I’m just trying to help the club in any way I can, just trying to learn. But, yeah, you can’t help but think about that (playoffs) when you’re on a team like this.”
A native of New York, White first made his mark in baseball at Park West High School in Manhattan. He grew up playing basketball, but took up baseball as something to do in the spring.
“I wasn’t even interested in baseball until I started watching Yankee and Mets games on TV with my father,” said White, 23. “Until then it was mostly basketball.
“I even had a scholarship offer to play basketball and baseball at Oklahoma State, but once I got drafted by the Angels, baseball became my favorite sport.”
White, 6-feet 3-inches and 200 pounds, now uses his speed to concentrate on more important matters, such as chasing fly balls and stealing bases. In his only appearance since being called up last week, White has done just that.
In Monday’s 9-3 loss to the Orioles, White was 2 for 4, stole two bases and made several nice putouts in left field. Not bad for someone still learning the ropes.
“I think last year when I came up I was more in awe of everything,” White said. “This time around I’m just trying to concentrate on doing my job, to learn the fine points of the game.”
White came to the Angels with fairly impressive credentials at Edmonton--14 home runs, 60 RBIs, and 42 stolen bases. In a poll of Pacific Coast League managers, White was named the best baserunner and defensive outfielder in that league this year.
The possibility exists that one day the Angels might have Gary Pettis and Devon White bat at the top of the order, giving the club a pair of speedsters on a par with Willie McGee and Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Said Pettis: “I don’t know if that’s how it would be in the batting order, but it’s an interesting possibility. We both have pretty good speed.
“The thing is, we’d both have to make contact consistently and be on base a lot to be big base-stealing threats.” The difference between Pettis and White is that when Pettis came up to the Angels there weren’t any other real speedsters on the club, meaning that Pettis had to learn base stealing from other players in the league, particularly Davey Lopes, then of Oakland.
White can now learn from Pettis, who has 35 stolen bases, and Dick Schofield, who has 19.
Until such time as White breaks into the lineup, he will be content to be a student of the game, learning the fine points from the veterans and contributing when called upon.
Times staff writer Mike Penner contributed to this story.