By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — Joshua White doesn’t seem like your average 23-year-old.
He seems to have the maturity of a man twice his age and that will serve him well in his new job: head baseball coach at Mariner High School.
Nothing has ever really been average about White. He was a straight-A student at Lake Stevens High School while playing baseball. The studies paid off when he was able to attend Columbia University after he graduated.
At Columbia, White worked out with the baseball team as a non-roster catcher and grew to miss playing competitively so much that he transferred to Occidental College in Los Angeles. He played there for two seasons primarily as a catcher and designated hitter. After finishing up at Occidental with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, White had his sights set on coaching and becoming a teacher.
“You talk to any serious athlete, either at the college or high-school level, and I guarantee you every one of them has thought about going back and being a coach,” White said. “And then you ask yourself, ‘Well, that’s not going to pay for it by itself unless I’m a coach at the D-1 level, so what else can I do?’ And teaching is the next closest thing.”
White began looking for coaching jobs in the area. He got wind of the opening at Mariner and applied for the job. White was on the verge of becoming the JV baseball coach at Ballard High School when Mariner called and offered him the head coaching position.
A little help from a friend, mentor and former coach helped White nail down his first high school head coaching position. Lake Stevens head baseball coach Rodger Anderson wrote a letter of recommendation to the athletic director at Mariner in support of his former player.
“I told him (White), people are going to look at you and just say, ‘You are too young to do it,’” Anderson said. “That’s what I tried to get across when I wrote my letter that he is probably one of the most mature high school students that I ever taught and coached and that sometimes you have to look beyond (age).”
Choosing Mariner was a no-brainer for White.
“Being a competitor, I wanted to step into a role where I could take charge and build my own program,” White said. “I didn’t really care about what the record was or what the past history was. For me it was opportunity to build from the ground up.”
White may not care about past records, but they are hard to overlook. Mariner finished 2-18 a season ago.
The excitement for the job was there, but with that came the understanding that turning things around is going to be tough. The Marauders don’t have the turnout that some of the other Wesco schools have and about half of White’s players have to juggle school, baseball and a part-time job.
In comparison, Anderson said that maybe 10 percent of his team has part-time jobs.
In order to bridge the gap between player and coach, White tried to get to know his team as quickly as possible. He started holding optional workouts for the players in the winter.
“My first step was, I sat down with about five (players) on last year’s team and I let them tell me some of the things that happened last year,” White said. “Some of the things that went well and more of the things that didn’t go well just so that I was sensitive to that going in. Basically I said, ‘Now that that’s out in the open, I don’t want to talk about the past anymore. Let’s move on and let this be a new start.’”
As White expected, things have been a challenge so far.
“In general, it’s been a rough start,” White said. “We’re 0-4 and the margins haven’t been close. But there have been some good things.”
Without a win so far, White was forced to look deeper for the positive signs. He found one in a 16-1 loss to Shorewood in the first game of the season.
The final score doesn’t tell the whole story. Mariner scored first and after three innings trailed the Thunderbirds just 2-1 before the “wheels fell of the wagon” White said.
Several errors in the game’s late innings turned what was a close game against a very good Shorewood team into a blowout.
“It’s one of those things where you look in the box score and you see 16-1, but as a coach you are forced to find a way to take something positive from it, otherwise you are just going to crush the guys,” White said. “That doesn’t do them any good and it doesn’t do me any good.
“It was a real confidence boost for our guys because Shorewood is a ranked team and they’ve got some really physical guys this year,” he added. “So being able to go out and compete with them, even if the end result wasn’t what we wanted, it was a real confidence boost. For me to have them try to take away something like that was a win for us. In the past I know a lot of these kids would have felt like they got reamed for a loss like that, but I’m trying to build on the positives.”
Even though the teams that White played on at Lake Stevens were accustomed to having success, being just five years removed from playing high school baseball has helped him to see things from a player’s perspective. He said looking back at some of those Lake Stevens teams, he can see now that some of them overachieved by fighting through adversity.
Now White’s challenge is getting his team at Mariner to buy into those same types of challenges.
“It’s going to be crucial for some of these guys to learn that it’s not going to be handed to you on a platter,” White said. “If you want to make stuff happen, you have to be proactive about it.”
It’s a pretty mature outlook for a 23-year-old to have, but Anderson isn’t surprised.
“When he was in high school, he was always 17 going on 30,” Anderson said.
It may not happen overnight, but Anderson said that he expects White to be successful in the long run if he sticks with it.
“I just hope he doesn’t give up on it,” he said. “He’s so organized. He’s going to do things the right way. I know he will do it the right way and hopefully Mariner will buy into that and his philosophy. For his first head coaching job, it’s going to be a challenge, but I think he’s up for it.
“All you have to do is just go out and prove yourself and you’ll be fine. And I know he will. He’s a pretty special young man.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.