25 August 2015
Spending four years as a professional after being signed in his teens by Atlanta Braves, popular Western Australian Dean White has retained a close involvement with Australian baseball as a player, a manager, a coach and a long-time employee of Fielders Choice – which itself has been a wonderful supporter of the game at all levels.
Aside from his ten-year stint with the Fielders Choice company, Dean White has held senior administrative roles in grassroots baseball, he has helped promote and popularise Little League, he has assisted in various capacities at Perth Heat and he has provided vision and coaching expertise in the advancement of women’s baseball.
Now serving as manager of Fielders Choice day-to-day operations, Dean White has lost none of his unbridled enthusiasm for advancing our great sport and nurturing positive community connections.
With a career spanning from 2001 to 2005, Dean White spent three seasons in Atlanta Rookie League before a further two with Rome Braves in South Atlantic League. He attributes much of his current enthusiasm for the Australian Baseball League – and specifically for Perth Heat – to the fact that there was no professional league option available here when he returned home.
His baseball commitment over recent years has been expressed in a close involvement with Perth Heat, with whom he played a handful of games in the first four seasons of the fledgling league. Even though he holds no official position, the thirty-two year-old has been at the forefront of club development.
“I just try to help out wherever I can,” Dean White told Australian Baseball Alumni this week. “Over the years I have helped with merchandising, sponsorship, marketing, corporate sales and hosting, import player liaison and other tasks as they have arisen.”
“I am pretty passionate about the Australian Baseball League and Perth Heat, as are most of the players of my era,” he said. “For many of us the ABL was not around when we were going through pro ball. We did not have the added benefit of getting to play in a professional league when we returned home from our United States season.”
“For us in Perth, we didn’t even have a field with proper lights when I was a teenager. The first time I did pop fly priority under lights with Danville Braves – in Rookie Ball – I dropped so many the boys had taped a fishing net to my locker when I arrived at the field the next day.”
“We are so lucky to now have Barbagallo Ballpark and the Perth Heat. It is up to us to make sure we keep both of them around!”
A relatively young man, Dean White still has plenty to offer the sport as a player. And he has certainly left a lasting impact with his work at Swan Districts – his club team.
“Relatively young? I like that,” he said, “though I am used to being called an old man in the sport. Last season was the first year I did not play club ball or for the Heat. I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing basketball last October and I am just getting back to playing baseball again.”
Heavily involved in the Little League baseball programme at Swan Hills, White stepped down as vice-president of Swan Districts last season to focus more fully on other areas.
“I started coaching five years ago with a development team and last year our little team of champions finished third in the country,” he said. “I am really proud of the work we have done at Swan Hills. I was lucky enough to have some great parent around to help put together a programme that was about development of kids into early adulthood – not just baseball.”
“It was our goal that when the kids left the programme they would have skills that would help them not only on the baseball field but in everyday life. The cornerstones of our programme are fun, giving one hundred per cent at all times and competing fearlessly.”
“It is our belief that development of these skills will help our players in all aspects of their lives,” he said. “I encourage anyone who has played the game to get involved with Little League baseball. Not only will you be making a difference to so many kids’ lives, but you will have a real blast while you are at it.”
Dean White (right).......
among many happy times with Perth Heat
Aside from his whole-hearted commitment to Little League, to the Australian Baseball League and to grassroots club baseball, Dean White has been a guiding light in the popularisation and development of women’s baseball. He is a member of the Baseball Australia Operations Committee and he ran the 2014 Women’s World Cup campaign in association with Simone Wearne and Narelle Gosstray.
“The Women’s World Cup was an amazing experience for me. The passion and love for baseball was truly unrivalled by the girls on the team,” Dean White said.
“Through the support of Baseball Australia and heaps of hard work on sponsorship and fundraising, the 2014 team was the first fully-funded women’s project in Baseball Australia history.”
“It helped that we had a dream staff for the World Cup campaign – Simone Wearne (Head Coach), Luke Hughes (Assistant Coach), Narelle Gosstray (Assistant Coach), Graeme Lloyd (Pitching Coach), along with Yas Sato, David Nagy and Joni Ralph-Wilkie in support roles.”
After twelve months of preparation Australia managed to snare a bronze medal after a seesawing battle in the Semi-Finals with Team USA and a walk-off win over Canada in the bronze medal decider.
“It was truly an eye opener to see such passion and love for the game – probably more so than any other team I have been involved in,” White said.
While he believes that Australia has the playing group to challenge even Japan to be the best women’s team in the world, Dean White is cognisant of the challenges that lie ahead.
“Women’s baseball is in a similar position to the rest of the sport in Australia,” he said. “While we are better positioned than ever from a player and personnel perspective, funding to Baseball Australia continues to be cut and sponsorship dollars are hard to come by. If we could get our national women’s team together twice a year to play ten or twenty meaningful tournament games, then the sky would be the limit.”
“Unfortunately the girls can’t keep digging into their pockets to do this. We had two amazing tournaments that we could have attended this year, but we just couldn’t put together a financially viable programme.”
While Dean White remains enthused about his engagement with Australian baseball at various levels, he – like all of us – needs to make a living. Fortunately for him, he is in a position with Fielders Choice that enables him to derive satisfying experiences from his chosen work with an employer who happens to be wonderful supporter of the game that has brought so many of us together.
“I have been with Fielders Choice for nearly ten years now,” White said. “There is an old saying that if you do what you love then you will never work a day in your life. That is how I feel.”
“I had five years of amazing experiences with Atlanta Braves and I have been around Fielders Choice since then. I have made many great friends through the store – and many customers have been shopping at the store even longer than I have been here. I also get to see the kids grow up that I have coached over the years.”
“Not to mention the amazing guys and girls who I work with every day. They are some of my best friends. It is like a big family.”
“The Fielders Choice business strives to offer the best advice and service possible and we hope that our customers enjoy coming to see us. We all love the game and we use the store as a forum to express our baseball passion, share stories and help whoever comes to visit us,” he said.
“After all, the business was started through the love of baseball and the great experiences the game brought Kevin, Geoff and Barry Hooker. So much of what we do is centred on giving other families a taste of those same experiences.”
Renowned as a progressive and community-minded business, Fielders Choice remains a generous supporter of Perth Heat, Western Flames, Teeball Western Australia, Baseball WA, the Australian Baseball League and Baseball Australia. Franchise stores have agreements with their state and local associations, as an expression of company founding principles.
“It is a real belief of Fielders Choice owner Geoff Hooker that we have a responsibility to help with growth of the game,” Dean White said. “While it is amazing to be able to work in a sport that we love, we know that comes with a responsibility to do the right thing by the game.”
“One of my favourite commitments made by Fielders Choice is its support of Team Spencer,” he said. “This is a charity that was set up by Heat Assistant Coach Rick Steven after the death of his son Spencer caused by SMA Type II. When Spencer passed away, there was not only no cure but there was no research – even – to find a cure! Through the work of Team Spencer there is now a PhD scholarship to fund research into a cure for SMA Type II.”
“This research is world leading and now provides hope for families, with a cure hopefully on the horizon.”
Given his intimate knowledge of the highly successful Perth Heat, Dean White could reasonably be expected to have some insights into both his club and the fortunes of the Australian Baseball League as it enters its sixth season.
“The Heat is always an interesting proposition each year,” he told Australian Baseball Alumni. “Although most have forgotten, the Heat struggled early last season – especially with pitching. The additions of Warwick Saupold and Mike McCarthy bolstered the rotation in the second half, while Jorge Marban and Scott Mitchinson continued to get stronger and stronger through to the end of the season.”
“There are no secrets about what is going on with the Heat. For the most part our success has been guided by a key group of players who set the tone for the team – Hughsie (Luke Hughes), TK (Tim Kennelly), De San (Allan De San Miguel), Matty K (Matt Kennelly) and so on. With them you can guarantee they are going to ensure that the team gives 100 per cent day in and day out.”
“That alone takes a lot of beating,” he said.
“We have enjoyed great success, no doubt about that, but it should seriously not be all that hard for another team to wrest the title away from us. There have been teams in the ABL that are better than the Heat – on paper, anyhow. Adelaide had a great team last year. It is the absolute belief of the Heat that has been hard to match. The boys show up to play and they have a massive amount of pride in pulling the Heat uniform on.”
Like many, Dean White sees the 2015/16 season as being pivotal for the ongoing success of the Australian Baseball League.
“I think the bigger cities really need to get around their teams far more,” he said. “We’ve seen Perth, Adelaide and Canberra receive good local support for a few seasons now. Brisbane had great attendances last season and are starting to lead the way.”
“Sydney and Melbourne are the teams I want to see burst out of the gate. They are exciting, with some amazing local talent. They are the vital cogs in the overall success of the league.”
Australian Baseball Alumni thanks Dean White for his assistance in the preparation of this story. We further extend our appreciation to Fielders Choice for its ongoing and generous commitment to the sponsorship and support of Australian baseball.