One year later, former Penn State baseball and football recruit Lonnie White Jr. is battling it out in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system.
Prior to being taken in the 2021 MLB Draft, White signed his letter of intent with the Nittany Lions, keeping the door open for a possible career in either sport.
However, the two-sport athlete chose a different route after being drafted 64th overall by the Pirates.
Unsurprisingly, the Las Vegas-born player didn’t make the major league Opening Day roster at the start of the 2022 campaign, instead spending time in rookie ball this year. However, there is no doubt that White shows promise for a team that hasn’t had much success in the last few decades.
Out of high school, White had a difficult decision ahead of him, with serious interest from the collegiate athletics scene in addition to professional baseball clubs. Ultimately, he had to choose between an immediate signing bonus and consistent salary or the long game as a student-athlete.
In high school at Malvern Preparatory School, White posted a .384 batting average in 30 games as a senior — a huge jump from his sophomore season when he batted .283.
The outfielder’s stellar senior year was enough to net him All-American third-team honors, according to Baseball America.
Originally, White committed to play baseball at Clemson, a program that’s produced numerous MLB talents. After which, his potential as a two-sport athlete and opportunity to play both sports led him to choose Happy Valley.
Although he only played four football games as a senior due to the pandemic, White was dubbed a 4-star recruit by 247Sports and named a first-team All-State selection at wide receiver by MaxPreps.
With his impressive athletic ability, it was becoming clear that White was a perfect candidate to successfully compete in two sports at the collegiate level.
When it became clear he could earn big money right away in professional baseball — including earning a $1.5 million signing bonus — instead of rolling the dice with new NIL procedures, White had to consider his options.
The Pennsylvania native eventually accepted the signing offer from the Pirates, forgoing college and choosing to immediately chase his professional sports dreams.
Soon after the draft, White was assigned to play with the Pirates’ rookie ball affiliate, FCL Pirates Black. With the Pirates Black, he batted .258/.303/.516 in 2021 in nine games.
White’s solid showing suggested that he was poised to have a breakout season this year for the club. However, the former Nittany Lion commit suffered a pair of injuries that has thus far derailed his 2022 campaign.
After being placed on the seven-day injured list, the organization recently moved White to the 60-day injured list, and there have been few updates on his status since.
This is surely a road bump for the young outfielder but is a perfect example of why dual-sport athletes, specifically ones who play baseball, may choose to get paid to play right away, rather than taking the college route.
In all likelihood, White will rejoin his club in the near future and work to get back into a groove after his injury. However, the system is likely to prioritize his long-term health over his short-term development.
In the long run, White has the potential to be a solid contributor for a Pirates organization that needs help at nearly every position. The young outfielder hopes to pair with the likes of third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and shortstop Oneil Cruz as the team’s future cornerstones.
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