There is no question that Lansing Lugnuts right-hander Ben White is having a breakout season.
Currently second on the team with 116 1/3 innings pitched and 85 strikeouts, White’s 3.64 ERA is the lowest among Lugnuts starters and he’s tied for the team lead with seven wins. What makes White’s numbers even more impressive, though, is that he spent all of April in the bullpen.
White joined Lansing’s rotation in early May where he was expected to fill a hole. That hole was quickly filled, as White became a staple in the Lugnuts’ rotation and made it difficult for his coaching staff to remove him.
“Ben has been very consistent. We put him in the rotation out of necessity and he has been our most consistent starter all year,” stated Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman. ““He understands what he needs to do and he goes out there and does it
“Ben’s been a pleasant surprise — he’s fun to watch.”
Joining the Blue Jays organization in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, White was excited for the opportunity to play professional baseball.
“I was happy and relieved when I signed with Toronto,” he said. “It took longer than I expected, as I was 22 years old when I signed, but it was a dream come true and the signing was a combination of all the hard work over the years.”
Prior to the signing, White spent four seasons at Temple University. At Temple, White had a standout junior season which earned him Philadelphia Big-5 all-star team honors. Throwing his most memorable NCAA game as a senior, White threw a complete game, one-hit shutout against Fairfield.
“College baseball is a lot of fun. I wish we were a little better at Temple, but I have a lot school pride for sure.” the 24-year old said. “Temple prepared me well for professional baseball.”
Although White had a lot of success at Temple, one of his favorite memories was, as a senior, the opportunity of being teammates with his brother, Zach.
“My senior year I got to play a full season with my brother who was a freshman it was a great experience,” White said. “It was one of my favorite college memories.”
White began his professional career in 2011 with the Vancouver Canadians, where he went 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA and only 10 strikeouts in 27 innings of work. Returning to the C’s the following year, White showed improvement in 2012, going 4-7 with a 5.73 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 77 innings of work.
White thoroughly enjoyed his two seasons in Vancouver, and still calls it an experience he’ll never forget.
“Vancouver was the coolest place I’ve ever played, not that Lansing isn’t great,” he said. “When you sell out every night and it’s a city of millions of people it’s a pretty darn cool way to start your professional career.”
Being on the Canadians’ roster in 2011 and 2012, White was fortunate enough to be a part of both of Vancouver’s Northwest League Championships.
“Each [win] was special, because we did it with a different group of guys it shows hard work pays off as we weren’t expected to win it, but we outplayed everybody and things fell our way,” White said. “Now I can wear two championship rings through the airport!”
Currently in Lansing, White is 7-6 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.375 WHIP in 116 1/3 innings. He’s made a fair amount of starts for the Lugnuts this season, but none more memorable than his outing at West Michigan on June 8 when he threw a complete game, five-hit shutout.
What White enjoyed most was that he had family at the game to witness his best professional start to date.
“It was cool. I was in front of family at West Michigan,” he said. “I have family that live in Grand Rapids and they were there to see it. Everything was clicking each inning and it was a snowball effect throughout the game.”
Now deep into his season with the Lugnuts, White has noticed a difference between hitters in the Midwest League and those in the Northwest League when he was with Vancouver.
“I think the Midwest League hitters are more disciplined,” he said. “There’s more talent. When you jump a level, the level of talent jumps as well. When you used to get bad swings out of the zone in the Northwest League now you have to get those guys to swing at your pitches in the zone. Every level you go up it’s going to get harder to get the outs.”
Pitching with more confidence, the 24-year-old credits a lot of his improvement to being able to work with Horsman every day.
“Vince has taught me how to figure out my game and I’m applying what I’ve learned and it’s working well. He’s very knowledgeable about the game,” White said. “Vince tells you like it is when you’re good, you’re good and when you’re bad, you’re bad; I wouldn’t want it any other way. He’s considered an epiphany guy in our organization, because there are guys who come out of Lansing a lot better than before.
“I’m commanding all my pitches and getting ahead of batters with my off-speed pitches. That’s a testament to Vince.”
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