Boomer White follows his heart from TCU to Texas A&M.
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Texas A&M third baseman Boomer White is the personification of the "Spirit of Aggieland."
In fact, a quick look at the words in that treasured school song show just how much White embodies its meaning.
"After they've boosted all the rest
Then they will come and join the best
For we are the Aggies, the Aggies are we..."
White certainly did his part to boost the rest. He was the star player and a fan favorite for TCU in 2013 and 2014, earning freshman All-American honors in his rookie season. In 2014, he was named the most outstanding player of the Fort Worth Regional and was the heartbeat of a TCU team that advanced to the College World Series. In Omaha, White had a flair for the dramatics by providing the team's go-ahead RBI with a clutch single in the bottom of the eighth inning against Texas Tech.
But even as that clutch hit occurred, White had already thinking about making the move to College Station so he could "come and join the best."
A hard choice lay ahead.
Would he stay at TCU or make a move to Texas A&M to finish his baseball career, and, just as importantly, his college education? White couldn't shake the feeling that to be truly happy he needed to transfer.
"It started to hit me early in the spring of my sophomore year," White said. "I realized I wasn't where I wanted to be. It was much more than just baseball. I loved my TCU teammates and coaches, but it was more than that. I knew Texas A&M was the place that I grew up loving and still loved."
Before 2009, college baseball had a liberal transfer rule that often resulted in star players at smaller schools being recruited to play for more established programs. New legislation was passed to combat that scenario, with one stipulation being that transferring student-athletes would need to sit out of competition for one year after switching schools. The end result was a significantly lower number of transfers.
Feeling Right at Home
Boomer White quickly became a fan favorite at Blue Bell Park after he drilled a home run in his first at bat in an A&M uniform on Feb. 19. The TCU transfer, who played outfield in his two seasons in Fort Worth, has taken over third base duties at A&M. The junior from Houston also recently received his Aggie Ring.
However, it wasn't enough to deter White from heading to College Station, even if it meant he would likely sit out the 2015 season.
"White was revered at TCU for what he had done for that team and how he had played," said A&M coach Rob Childress. "For someone 20 years old to make the decision that his heart was leading him to Texas A&M despite having to suffer the consequences of sitting out for a season...it really tells you how much he loves Texas A&M."
For White, the decision to transfer was about much more than baseball.
"There is so much upside to being an Aggie beyond baseball," White said. "I was so thrilled to get into the business school here, and I will get my degree from Texas A&M University. I also knew that if I could commit and put forth the dedication as a baseball player, that I could help this team when I was eligible to play."
After the 2014 College World Series, White spent the summer playing in the prestigious Cape Cod League, where word of his decision to transfer broke in early July. White took the time to address the rumors on Twitter and expressed gratitude toward his fans and former teammates. He also wrote about how excited he was to be going to Texas A&M and starting a new journey with the Aggies.
Even though his chances of playing in 2015 were slim, White appealed to the NCAA seeking a waiver to play immediately. He spent the fall season scrimmaging against his new teammates, and it became clear early on that White was going to be a key cog in the Aggie offense as soon as he was eligible.
White's batting average in scrimmages surpassed .350, and he was among the team leaders in doubles and RBI. He also quickly bonded with his new team and displayed the hard-charging attitude that made him a fan favorite in Fort Worth. White played every day like it was the last inning of a regional with a championship on the line.
While practicing in the outfield, a nagging problem from his TCU days reappeared--a weakness in his arm that had escaped diagnosis on several occasions. Working with the A&M medical staff, White finally discovered the cause. He was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a group of disorders that occur when there is compression, injury or irritation of the nerves and/or blood vessels in the lower neck and upper chest area.
"I knew I had an issue with my arm for a while," White recalled. "I was misdiagnosed at TCU a couple of times. When I got to A&M and felt it flare up, I told trainer Josh Cohen, and they were able to find out what was wrong. I knew it was the perfect time to get it fixed (by having a rib removed) while I wasn't (playing) and to take a couple months to heal. It all worked out, and my arm feels better now than it ever has before."
When the NCAA ruled that White would have to sit out the 2015 season, it marked the first time he would not compete going back to his days as a little league player, and the surgery kept White from hitting the practice field and working with his new teammates during a tremendous season. He watched from the sidelines as A&M tallied a 24-game winning streak to start the year. The Aggies eventually climbed to No. 1 in the polls, and a solid season in SEC play kept the Aggies near the top of the rankings all spring.
Following the regular season, the NCAA selection committee incredulously announced that A&M did not earn a top eight national seed, which would have given the Aggies home field advantage throughout the postseason. The selection committee's gaffe was difficult to accept, and it was compounded when A&M had to travel to play TCU in the Super Regional round of the tournament. Each team was tested in the regional round and both had to play a winner-take-all championship game with Texas A&M rallying to beat California, 3-1, at nearly the same time TCU defeated NC State, 9-8.
Focus and Ferocity
White approaches baseball with an intense focus and plays each game as if it is the deciding game of an NCAA regional. That drive has helped him pile up a team-leading 53 hits through 32 games to go along with a stellar .424 batting average. White makes opposing pitchers work hard to record an out, as he also leads the team in drawing walks.
That set up A&M's trip to Fort Worth for one of the most highly-charged and evenly-contested matchups of the postseason. The Aggies battled back from a 14-3 loss in game one to even the series with a 2-1 win in 10 innings. The victory resulted in a final game where the winner would advance to Omaha.
A&M rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the ninth inning to tie the game, and both teams battled back and forth before TCU ended the nearly six-hour marathon in the 16th inning on a misplayed ball for a shocking 5-4 victory.
"He was watching us have a great year and having it culminate with us playing his former team for the right to go to Omaha and the College World series," Childress said. "Having to sit in the stands was very tough on him, and to watch that series and not play on either side showed how mature of a decision he made."
White headed back to the Cape Cod League last summer, but the long layoff showed as he struggled at the plate, and coaches moved him from the outfield to the infield.
He knew the Aggies were going to give him a shot to play on the dirt after he spent his previous college career in the outfield.
"I take pride in being able to play any position on the field, and I thought there might be an opening on the infield," White said. "The coaches told me to get two different gloves, a small one for second base and bigger one for third base. They worked me in there the first few days of the fall, and I had a spot. I love it (at third). It keeps you on your toes with a lot of action."
While he didn't initially display the same hitting prowess as the previous fall, White steadily improved against the Aggie pitching staff, and his hard work at third base eventually landed him a permanent move to the hot corner.
"Hitting isn't like riding a bike," Childress said. "With the level of pitching we see day in and day out in the SEC, you have to get at least 100 at bats under your belt in the summer and fall before you feel comfortable. We didn't have any concern about his layoff."
Childress knew that by the time the season rolled around, White would be near the top of the lineup. When he penciled him into the No. 2 position for the season opener, it set up a storybook debut in Aggieland.
White strolled to the plate in front of his new teammates and fans in the bottom of the first inning on Feb. 19 against Hofstra. On a 2-1 count, White connected on a fastball and drove it over the left field fence for a home run in his first at bat in an Aggie uniform. As the 6,806 in attendance went wild, White joyfully cruised around the bases before being engulfed at home plate by his teammates.
"He is always in the right spot," Childress said, "and the best compliment I can give him is that he is 'a baseball player.' We could put him anywhere in the field, and he would be very good defensively. And we could bat him anywhere in the lineup, and he would be great in that role, too."
Childress' early suspicion that White would return to his excellent form at the plate has proven to be accurate. Through the series against Georgia on April 10, White had started all 32 games for the Aggies and owned a scorching .424 batting average, the best on the team by a wide margin. His 53 hits were the most on the team and his .507 on base percentage helped A&M average 7.78 runs per game.
White's A&M experience has continued to live up to his expectations, too.
Even though he spent two years "boosting the rest" at TCU, when Childress presented him with his Aggie Ring after practice earlier this month, White's decision to "join the best" was validated again.
"My grandfather, Paul Holladay Jr. '56, was a yell leader here, so it's special to get my Aggie Ring," White said. "I know it's a symbol of being an Aggie. Coach Childress spoke about each player before he gave us our rings, and what he said means a whole lot and it fired me up. I am not planning on taking it off anytime soon."
Scott Clendenin, class of 1989, is a member of the Texas A&M baseball broadcast team.
It's a real pleasure for us to do this, because I think back about all the support Aggies have given me. No one accomplishes everything in life by themselves, and A&M and the Aggie network have definitely been there for me throughout my life."