I can still recall the first time that I met him. I was doing some work for the local town newspaper reporting on the Ford High varsity baseball team. It was a beautiful day and I arrived at the site of the game about a half an hour early. As I approached the small bleachers stationed along the first base line, I noticed a small boy in a wheelchair sitting behind the fence near home plate. He appeared to be watching the only player to yet arrive go through his stretching exercises. Since I had some time to kill before the start of the game, I decided to go over and talk to the little boy, but I had no idea at the time that this trivial, seemingly insignificant decision, would have such a profound effect on my life!
I approached the boy and immediately noticed that he was totally mesmerized by the player on the field. He had a look in his eyes that is hard for me, even as a seasoned wordsmith, to describe; it was a look of admiration mixed with joy and pride. I turned to look out at the field to see if I could surmise what could possibly be responsible for the boys apparent pleasure, when I was startled back to reality by a soft, barely audible voice asking me, ”Hey Mister, would you like to help my brother warm up?” I had noticed something folded up in the boy’s lap that I now realized was a catcher’s mitt. I thought about it for a second and responded, “Sure, why not? But first you have to tell me your name,” I replied. The boy’s name was Todd White. As soon as he told me his name, I realized why he had sat there with that mesmerized look. The player that I had just agreed to warm up to was his big brother, Dixon White!
If I had of known it at the time, I’m not sure if I would have made the same decision or not! Ford High's opponent that day, Upper Valley High School, really had their work cut out for them today because they would be facing the best, hardest throwing pitcher in the county, if not the state, when they faced this kid today. I told Todd to throw me the catcher’s mitt and I walked over to introduce myself to Dixon. He seemed to size me up as I approached him, then he paused for a second and smiled a knowing smile, “It looks like you’re Todd’s victim of the day, huh?” I asked him what he meant and he told me he would tell me later. As we began to toss the ball around, some of the other players began to arrive at the field, but instead of warming up themselves, they started watching Dixon and I. It didn’t take me long to realize why. Even as we were just beginning to toss the ball, I couldn’t believe the pace that this kid was putting on the ball!!! With no apparent effort at all, Dixon was throwing harder than if I was to throw from a full wind-up. I couldn’t believe it! On about his twentieth toss to me, I flung the catcher’s mitt off of my throbbing left hand and started rubbing my palm in a desperate attempt to get it to feel “normal” again. At this point, I noticed that the players who had stood watching this spectacle were all smiling from ear to ear and it looked like little Todd was going to giggle himself to death!
I yelled over to him, “Thanks a lot, Todd! You knew what I was in for, didn’t you?” Through his giggles, he nodded back in the affirmative. By now, my curiosity was killing me, so I asked Dixon to take the mound and pitch for real. It only took about 5 pitches before I knew that I was in the presence of greatness. This kid had great stuff and certainly threw it harder than anyone I had ever had the pleasure to catch for! The game itself was really nondescript, except for the fact that Dixon pitched a two hitter, hit a homer and a triple and led Ford High to a 6-0 shutout, much to the delight of Todd. I left the park that day to go home and write up my report of the game; my palm was still tingling and so were my instincts that I might be hearing more about Dixon White!
I guess this would be as good a time as any to introduce myself. My name is Ray Gorman and I’m a sports reporter for a large metropolitan newspaper, the Pittsburgh Gazette. As you can see, I also do some reporting for my town’s small local newspaper. It keeps me honest. With all of the things going on in sports today, it’s nice to see the game played strictly for the games’ sake, rather than strictly for the pursuit of the almighty dollar. The scene that I just described to you happened a few years ago but, as you can see, it has had a lasting effect on me. I thought that I had just about seen it all as far as sports and life were concerned, until I came across the story that I am about to relate to you!