Jays From the Couch travels to Buffalo and sits down with Bisons hitting coach, and Blue Jays legend, Devon White
The three-time World Series winner, seven-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star Devon White has never been far from the minds of Blue Jays fans. It was December 2, 1990 when White was traded to the Blue Jays, along with Willie Fraser and Marcus Moore for Junior Felix, Luis Sojo and Ken Rivers, a trade definitely won by the Blue Jays. Manager Cito Gaston gave him the leadoff spot and centre field, setting things up for two out of three of White’s World Series wins.
The most remembered will always be The Catch in Game 3 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves, when he chased down a a fly ball deep into centre field, almost climbed the wall to rob David Justice of a hit. Though the play would have ended in a triple-play had play review been available at the time, the catch itself is still regarded as one of the greatest catches in World Series history.
Fast forward a few years – alright decades – and Devon White is making his coaching debut with the Blue Jays organization as the hitting coach for the Buffalo Bisons. Devon White will always be a legend, and having that knowledge of the game is incredibly valuable in any organization. A great addition for the Blue Jays organization – a star player turned coach that can help guide the younger players into successful MLB careers. Witnessing first hand his coaching, his ability to connect, along with his experience in all aspects of the game, it is definitely a winning combination for the Buffalo Bisons.
Jays From the Couch had the opportunity to sit down with this legend to talk baseball, mentoring, and what he thinks of the coming of Bo and Vladdy.
JFtC: After being involved with the Blue Jays organization and working as a guest instructor for amateur players at Tournament 12, how are you enjoying your role as hitting coach for the Buffalo Bisons?
DW: I’m loving it. It’s something that I wanted to get back into the organization and contribute one way or the other, and I didn’t think about being a hitting coach until probably a couple of years ago, but like I said I’m really enjoying it.
JFtC: With your history – seven Gold Gloves, three All-Star appearances and three World Series championships, is there more of a mentorship going on, or do you just focus on the hitting? You have so much to offer these young players as you’ve been through it and have won so many amazing awards.
DW: It’s focusing on the hitting first and foremost. The little things I can help out with as far as the outfield and the way you carry yourself, the way you make your approach everyday, and just maintain your physical fitness. If I can help out that way I try, but I try not to step over what I am doing.
JFtC: Do you help them with some of the media scrutiny that they tend to face once they come up into triple A? Here they are so close to the Blue Jays and there’s always that talk of who’s going to be called up…
DW: Oh no, not at all (laughs) that’s not my department. As a young man it was tough for me, but in today’s day and age they’re more aware of what they should and shouldn’t say, so they’re pretty much in tune on what they need to do.
JFtC: Have you noticed a change in pitching styles since the time when you were playing? Are there different pitches that you are seeing?
DW: I think they’ve renamed some of the pitches. Everybody’s saying this is a cutter and what we know as a cutter is a fastball that pretty much has a little slide on it, but what they’re using as a cutter right now is more of a flat slider. It doesn’t do much, it’s just spinning and they use it as a cutter, but it’s pretty much the same through out.
JFtC: How do you teach a batter to have an eye for a pitch and not to just swing at anything that comes at them?
DW: That comes with playing. It comes with playing and knowing what you are capable of doing and knowing the zone. I think talent takes over when it comes down to that and also getting in there and getting a lot of at bats and plate appearances. That helps.
JFtC: Now you were a part of that crazy play in Game 3 of the World Series in 1992, your amazing catch and throw that should have been a triple play for the Blue Jays but wasn’t because instant replay wasn’t used back then. How do you feel about the technology in the game? Do you support going further and having that technology go into the batter’s box to make the strike zone uniform?
DW: I think so far what has been used has been very constructive. As far as how far they are going to go we don’t know. In some part of the game today, it’s taken away from being that kind of player I was, like breaking up the double play or sliding into home plate hard. It’s the dollars and of course that players are getting hurt, so that part of it is being taken away from the game. So far, the other stuff like looking at the monitor, I think it’s a good thing because it can predict what the game turnout could be.
JFtC: There are a lot of fans who are paying attention, some for the first time, to who is coming up in the system, as there has been this focus on the Blue Jays farm system. Are there any players coming up that have caught your eye?
DW: What I saw in spring training and what I’m seeing now is so many guys. It was my first spring training with the Blue Jays so it was a lot for me to take in. Being focused now on the Triple A team, we have a few talented guys here and it’s just a matter of them focusing on what they need to do and not what’s around them. Nowadays I think a lot of the young guys, or young men I should say, they worry about too many other things that they have no control over. That’s been a change in the game, when am I going to be called up or why did they take this guy over me. They need to just focus on themselves and not others.
JFtC: What do you think of somebody like Bo Bichette or Vlad Guerrero Jr?
DW: Well I saw a little of them and I can’t jump on the bandwagon because I haven’t seen them play like everyone else has, but they are very talented. Of course Bo, I played with his dad, and I played against Vladdy’s dad so basically they are off the block. You’ve got to pay attention to what they’re doing and they have some good numbers but let’s see if they can do that at the next level.
JFtC: Does age play a factor in that? They’re very talented but still so young?
DW: I don’t think it should. If you’re talented and can play at this level you should play at this level. I don’t think anyone is going to hold them back, it’s a matter of giving them the opportunity and that there’s space available for them to play. If they come up we want them to play, we don’t want them to just watch.
JFtC: Thanks for your time Devo, we’ll be watching with you, and wish you the best in this next phase of what has been an amazing career.
*Featured Image Credit: Devon White Twitter
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.