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Pirates coach Ricky White defies myth

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Ricky White with Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle (Photo by Timothy Cox)

BALTIMORE, Md.—For Ricky White, joining the staff of a professional athletic team is something he never imagined—especially after suffering a traumatic shoulder injury that eclipsed his burgeoning college football career.

After four years at Fresno State University, the Riverside, California native had visions of reaching the professional ranks prior to the injury.

“The injury turned out to open a whole new world for me,” said White, who was named Strength and Conditioning coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates in January 2016.

Following his football injury (nerve damage to his shoulder), his strength coach at Fresno State, Steve Sobonya, suggested that White pursue a new field of study. “Coach said he always noticed my work ethic and that was a trait that could be transferable to other athletes,” reflected White, a running back who originally majored in criminology. After becoming adept at helping his fellow athletes with their physical conditioning, White changed his major to Kinesiology and pursued a new career.

“Before the injury, I really had hopes of making the NFL, but in retrospect, I really enjoy this line of work. And no, I never played baseball—not even as a youth—but my job is to make sure all these guys stay physically-fit enough to do their jobs on a daily basis,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier.

His job entails working with individual players on free weights, nautilus equipment, range of motion and flexible rubber bands to isolate different muscles. Unlike other athletes, baseball players aren’t focused on one particular muscle group—they’re always on their feet, so they’re focused on their feet, their core, hip flexers, strong backs, and rotator cup muscles. “It’s vital to keep their bodies in balance as much as you can,” White said.

“We have something for every player, every day. They may spend time with trainers, then with me, then our trainers again. We use the wheel analogy: I’m just one spoke, the other spokes equate to our entire performance team. We meet daily, discuss players and their significant needs. Truly a team effort.”

Concerning the Pirates’ current ups and downs of this 2017 season, White concluded: “We’re a young team. We achieve successes and we build on those. In time, I believe we’ll be just fine. Even now, we do compete,” he said.

Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle mirrored White’s optimism. “We’re getting there. We were close tonight, just a matter of closing ‘em out.”

For White, as the father of two teenage daughters with 24 years of marriage in tow, he says he doesn’t take his success for granted.

“I wasn’t the typical ghetto child, but my mother raised me and my two sisters. I didn’t always take the right path. I’ve had friends that died through street violence, but fortunately, I always had a solid (family) foundation.”

Now 43 years old, White says he makes it a point to return to his old California digs to speak with at-risk youth. “Whether it’s a last-chance high school, or a juvenile hall—I’ve been there. Young people must make the right choices and choose the other fork in the road. They can look at it from a kid like me who was able to make it out and do what I do. I just try to be real with them.”

White says two of his primary supporters include Hurdle and newly-appointed first-base coach Kimera Bartee. Before his promotion to the Pirates, White worked as Strength and Conditioning coach at Class AAA Indianapolis the past two seasons. He also worked in the same capacity at Class AA Altoona from 2011-2013. He’s also worked for Pirates affiliates the West Virginia Power in Charleston and the Altoona Curve in Altoona.

The East Los Angeles area native said he’s proud to be one of only four African Americans employed in his capacity, throughout Major League Baseball. Though he’s new to the city, White says he’s already garnered an appreciation for the fans and being a part of the city’s great athletic tradition. “I really like Pittsburgh. It’s a great city,” he said.

“We have something for every player, every day. They may spend time with trainers, then with me, then our trainers again. We use the wheel analogy: I’m just one spoke, the other spokes equate to our entire performance team. We meet daily, discuss players and their significant needs. Truly a team effort.”

Concerning the Pirates’ current ups and downs of this 2017 season, White concluded: “We’re a young team. We achieve successes and we build on those. In time, I believe we’ll be just fine. Even now, we do compete,” he said.

Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle mirrored White’s optimism. “We’re getting there. We were close tonight, just a matter of closing ‘em out.”

For White, as the father of two teenage daughters with 24 years of marriage in tow, he says he doesn’t take his success for granted.

“I wasn’t the typical ghetto child, but my mother raised me and my two sisters. I didn’t always take the right path. I’ve had friends that died through street violence, but fortunately, I always had a solid (family) foundation.”

Now 43 years old, White says he makes it a point to return to his old California digs to speak with at-risk youth. “Whether it’s a last-chance high school, or a juvenile hall—I’ve been there. Young people must make the right choices and choose the other fork in the road. They can look at it from a kid like me who was able to make it out and do what I do. I just try to be real with them.”

White says two of his primary supporters include Hurdle and newly-appointed first-base coach Kimera Bartee. Before his promotion to the Pirates, White worked as Strength and Conditioning coach at Class AAA Indianapolis the past two seasons. He also worked in the same capacity at Class AA Altoona from 2011-2013. He’s also worked for Pirates affiliates the West Virginia Power in Charleston and the Altoona Curve in Altoona.

The East Los Angeles area native said he’s proud to be one of only four African Americans employed in his capacity, throughout Major League Baseball. Though he’s new to the city, White says he’s already garnered an appreciation for the fans and being a part of the city’s great athletic tradition. “I really like Pittsburgh. It’s a great city,” he said.

He’s also interested in reaching out and participating in community activism—especially when it comes to helping young people.

“My goal is to get out in the community of Pittsburgh and express some of the same goodness that we spread throughout my hometown,” he said. “My job is larger than this—my job is to show the youth that you don’t have to be a superstar athlete in order to achieve some level of success. Here I am, a kid that never played baseball, and was injured in college. Usually, that spells the end of an athlete’s career, but I’m here to defy the odds. I’m working for a Major League organization, making a living,” he said with a smile.

“So, it’s in my heart and soul to reach out the schools, the Boys and Girls clubs, the YMCAs; I want them to connect with me,” he said, noting Pirates Community Outreach Coordinator Joel Gray, who handles such inquiries. “What Joel’s doing is amazing. They (the public) can go through Joel to contact me,” he urged.

“We need to give back and inspire our community.”

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