A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Miami’s loss could be K.C.’s gain
But the Royals have taken on another highly-touted football star by signing White, former quarterback for the Miami Dolphins and the University of West Virginia, to a Minor League contract.
White, 24, a left-handed batter and thrower, figures as a swift center fielder in the Royals’ plans.
“He was a pretty good-looking prospect out of high school, actually a fourth-round selection by the Angels. He starred in football at West Virginia and had an unbelievable career,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.
“He’s a winner and an exceptional athlete. He’s got a baseball background and loves baseball. It’s been four, no, five years since he played.”
That long absence from baseball means that White, who was released by the Dolphins on Sept. 5, will be playing catch-up in baseball. But Moore believes White is a good enough athlete to do it.
White will report to the Royals’ complex at Surprise, Ariz., for the Arizona instructional league, which begins on Sept. 20.
“It’s not like he’s coming to Kansas City tomorrow,” Moore said. “That’s what the instructional league is for, that’s what the Minor Leagues are for — to develop talent. That’s where baseball’s different from other sports.”
“You can’t sign a baseball player to go play in the NFL but you can sign an NFL player or an athlete to play in the Minor Leagues because it’s about development.”
Kansas City was the center of a major football-baseball crossover story when Jackson, a prize running back at Auburn University, decided to sign with the Royals in 1986 and play as well with the Los Angeles Raiders.
Jackson, a power hitter and extremely fast, prospered in both sports until suffering a hip injury in an NFL playoff game against Cincinnati in 1991. Eventually he had a hip replacement and a comeback attempt with the White Sox was short-lived.
White, like Jackson, came out of Alabama. In White’s case it was Daphne High School, where he hit .487 as a senior and stole 28 bases, leading to a second-team spot in Baseball America’s All-America selections of 2004.
Drafted in the fourth round by the Angels, White instead went to West Virginia on a football scholarship.
He was the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback for four years and was selected in the second round (44th overall) by the Dolphins in the 2009 NFL Draft. As a rookie last year, White carried the ball 21 times for 81 yards and was 0-for-5 in pass attempts.
All the while, though, Major League Baseball had not forgotten him. The Angels took him again in 2007 (26th round), the Reds picked him in 2008 (49th round) and the Yankees in 2009 (48th round).
Lonnie Goldberg, the Royals’ director of baseball operations, handled the White signing.
“We know the NFL may still be an option, and we have discussed that with Pat, but are excited that he is open to the idea of playing baseball for the Royals,” Goldberg said.
Moore noted that the Royals were very familiar with White’s baseball skills because the club scouted him closely during his high school years.
At West Virginia, White won two Big East titles and two BCS bowl games.
He’s still the only quarterback to win four bowl games and he’s rushed for more yards than any quarterback in NCAA Division I history.
It’s that athleticism and running ability that prompted the Royals to bring the 6-0, 190-pound White back to baseball.
“It’s not an easy game to play, obviously, but he’s an exceptional athlete and an exceptional competitor — and has a desire to do it,” Moore said.
The Royals currently have a former college quarterback on their roster, third baseman Josh Fields, who starred at Oklahoma State. The baseball Fields is more of a power hitter; White is seen as a speed player.
“He’s different than Josh,” Moore said. “He’s probably faster than Michael Vick was … he’s an exceptional speed-type guy.”