Q&A flashback: a 1998 interview with MLB outfielder Devon White

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Former MLB outfielder Devon White in 2009. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

This interview with Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Devon White appeared in The Daily Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper, on Sept. 7, 1998.

By Ed Odeven
Contributor

PHOENIX — Devon White’s injury-plagued 1997 season ended the way baseball players dream every season would end: by winning the World Series.

The 35-year-old Kingston native helped the Florida Marlins win their first World Series — by defeating the Cleveland Indians in a thrilling six-game series.

The speedy, sure-handed center fielder went 3-for-5 with a triple and a stolen base in the Series finale. In doing so, White’s nagging injuries that limited his effectiveness and playing time during the regular season became mere afterthoughts.

White was thrilled once again to sip the sweet champagne that only arrives in the winning team’s clubhouse. His first taste of victory came as a member of the back-to-back World Champion Toronto Blue Jays in 1992-93.

As Florida began dismantling its franchise just weeks after winning it all, White was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Since joining Arizona, he has been one of the team’s most consistent players. The Gleaner had the opportunity to talk with the 35-year-old at Bank One Ballpark before a recent home game against the Montreal Expos.

Q: How did you get started playing baseball?

DW: It’s me and (New York Yankees slugger) Chili Davis that are the only two native Jamaicans that I know of that were born there in Kingston. I came up to New York City and he came up to Los Angeles. I was nine years old. I played cricket and football. You know, I was very athletic down there. So  I played cricket and when I came (to New York City) the closest things to cricket was stickball and baseball. I played a lot of stickball and then eventually I got into playing baseball. Everyone’s like, ‘Come play for my baseball team.’ I didn’t know how to play, but after my dad, he watched it a lot, filled me in and we would watch TV and he would tell me why basically certain plays were made and what happened, just teaching me the game. Eventually, I picked it up at a young age. You pick things up like that pretty quick. And it just went on from there. I grew up in Manhattan and played baseball in the Bronx.

Q: What teams did you watch growing up? And what guys did you look up to as role models?

DW: I was one of those kids that never really tried to copy anyone. You always hear kids say, ‘I’m this person. I’m that person.’ I was never a kid like that. I just went out and played and that was it. Growing up, I watched a lot of (New York) Mets games with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. They had such a great team.

Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of as a pro ballplayer?

DW: (Winning) seven Gold Gloves. That’s why I’m regarded as one of the best center fielders in the game. Although I haven’t won a Gold Glove in the National League yet, I’m still wondering why. I’ve also won three World Series rings. I think I’m the only player that’s in the game right now who can boast that accomplishment. Most of the guys that have won three have retired.

Q: How long have you lived in Phoenix?

DW: I’ve been living here for 15 years.

Q: Are you happy living in the Valley of the Sun?

DW: It’s been very nice and easy when you can be at home and sleep in your very own bed every night when the games are over. This is my first opportunity in the 13 years I’ve been playing in the major leagues that I’ve been able to play at home. Usually I’m picking up in spring training and I’m going wherever when the season starts. I was in California my first year and then Toronto and then Florida. This is my first year I’m having spring training and my regular season here in Phoenix. It’s been pretty good.

Q: Do you think baseball’s popularity has risen in Jamaica since you and Chili Davis began playing? And have you had a chance to go down there and see what’s going on as far as athletics?

DW: Well, a couple years ago, when I was with the Toronto, we had a camp going on to basically entice more players to play the game. It didn’t go too well just because you have to have the right people working for you. And the kids there are still more into the soccer and the cricket. But so far, the kids that have moved, say, like to New York City and Miami, those are the kids right now that have taken baseball up. But it’s tough to do in Jamaica because you don’t have the means. You don’t have the teams there. You don’t have the practice sessions there. So, it’s kind of tough.

Q: Have you been to Jamaica many times since moving to America? And if so, since you become a pro ballplayer do you sense that you are a hero down there?

DW: I used to go down there every year because my father lived down there and retired there. I used to go down and my mom passed in ’92 and now my father is here. I haven’t had a chance to go down there every year anymore because my father and most of my family are in the (United States). But when I do go down it’s just more low key. No one knows I’m there and no one knows who I am. Baseball is not a big thing there so they wouldn’t know unless they are told this is Devon White and he plays baseball. Then people put two and two together.

Q: What would you like to say to the Jamaican people?

DW: I’d like to definitely see more of the kids start playing the game because it’s a good game. It’s also a good way of life. If the government down there or the community could get kids into playing it as much as they are picking up basketball. … Try to motivate the kids and give them the means to play the game, that would be great.

 

 

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