Ontario Blue Jays catcher Sam White was faced with a choice most people couldn’t dream of— working towards the NHL or Major League Baseball.
The 18-year-old from Aurora has played both hockey and baseball his entire life, and was a two-sport athlete in the likes of a Canadian Bo Jackson, or Kyler Murray.
He ultimately made the decision to pursue baseball and committed to play for the West Virginia Mountaineers in the NCAA after considering it a safer choice, one that would give him additional benefits that hockey may not provide.
“With baseball, I had a good summer, and right after that summer I was talking with Division 1 schools that were willing to pay for my education,” White said in an interview on Saturday. “Top resources, top facilities in the country, it was sort of a no-brainer.”
Making the decision between hockey and baseball was tough. White was drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in the second round of the OHL U-18 priority selection draft, that path felt uncertain.
“I got drafted to the OHL, but going there is a risky move. You might not be getting your education paid for,” White said. “So that really wasn’t for me. I was looking to go to school for either baseball or hockey, but there aren’t any 18-year-old NCAA goalies (who start).”
Regardless, the newest Mountaineer considers his time in hockey to have been an invaluable experience towards his growth and development in baseball. He viewed himself as a sort of last line of defence in both sports, playing catcher and goalie.
“[As a goalie] you need to be athletic and have the strongest legs on the ice. Playing goalie helped me with strength and with hand-eye coordination,” White said. “Being a goalie, trying to stop that little puck with people shooting 95-100 miles per hour at you, it’s gonna sharpen your skills on the ice and on the [baseball] field.”
The strength that he developed in both sports is apparent. Videos of him deadlifting have gained some traction online.
Conner Morro, White’s strength and conditioning coach at the Ontario Blue Jays, has helped him develop his power and explosiveness.
“Sam is a special athlete,” Morro said. “His genetics are very, very sound. Obviously deadlifting 565 pounds is pretty freakish at the age of 18 years old.”
Those that watch him play baseball are most impressed with his bat skill, showing a talent for not only strength, but good control and contact.
“In my opinion, Sam is one of the most pure hitters I’ve seen at the high school level. All the contact he makes is off the barrel of the bat. There’s no weak contact,” said Morro.