Eli White has had numerous chances to follow his dream of playing professional baseball. But instead, he passed on those opportunities to play baseball for the Clemson Tigers.
White was drafted coming out of high school in the 26th round by Cincinnati in 2013. However, he felt it was best for his development to attend college.
“It was just one of those things that I thought it was in my best interest to go to college at that point,” White said. “It was an honor to get drafted by the Reds out of high school. I just felt like it was in my best interest as a player and a person to go to Clemson.”
Last year, as a draft-eligible sophomore, White was once again selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. This time it was by Pittsburgh, who chose the shortstop in the 37th round.
But, White decided to remain at Clemson, who said it has always been a dream of his to play for the Tigers since he was young.
“I wanted to come back to school for my junior season,” White said. “They never really made me an offer. I just decided that it was best for me to come back to school for another year.”
White’s dedication to Clemson could pay off this June, as he has a chance to be selected for a third time.
Baseball American ranks White as the 72nd best college draft prospect available in their preseason rankings.
“I am more of a take it one day at a time type of guy,” White said on his approach to the draft. “It’s not really hard for me to do. I am really excited about this team. I love the guys on this team. I don’t really want to look forward past that. I’m just trying to handle what’s in front of me and that’s this baseball season.”
White is coming off of a season in which he started 61 games at shortstop, while hitting .297 with four home runs, 29 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .380.
However, he strike out 57 times, while also struggling defensively, committing 19 errors with a .943 fielding percentage.
“The big thing I wanted to work on this offseason was really just cutting down on strikeouts from last year,” White said. “Just working on my approach and just utilizing all sides of the field. Defensively, just making the routine play and working on my arm strength, getting my arm stronger and being more consistent.”
If White can cut down on his errors and strike outs, while being more consistent in all areas of the game, he has a chance to be selected in the early rounds of the draft.
“At this point it is nice to get recognized, but I really haven’t proved anything yet,” White said. “I have to go out this season and to prove where I am ranked where I am. I have a lot of proving to do. It’s nice but it’s not the end result.”
A Third-Team All-ACC selection a year ago, White isn’t really worried about his performance or future. Instead, he is eager for the season and focused on helping Clemson win.
“We are a tight knit group,” White said of his team. “We have a lot of high character guys. A lot of guys who work really hard. We have a lot of talent too. It’s a fun team. I’m excited about it.”
For the first time in in over 20 years, the Tigers will have a new head coach in the dugout.
At the end of last season Hall of Fame coach Jack Legget was fired after a 22-year run as Clemson’s head coach due to a lack of championship level success in recent years.
Monte Lee was brought in in hopes of rejuvenating the program after seven successful seasons as the head coach of College of Charleston.
Despite the change in head coach, winning championships is still the expectation at Clemson this season.
“It’s kind of been rough the last couple years,” White said. “It hasn’t turned out exactly how we wanted it to once we got to the tournament. But, we just have to keep working hard and talking it day-by-day. We can’t look ahead to the tournament right now. We have to look at our opening series and then take it from there.”