Former Olean Oilers pitcher Andrew White will take the reins as the team’s new head coach. White pitched collegiately at St. Bonaventure and Buffalo.

His playing career was undermined by injury and coronavirus, but Andrew White is hoping managing will give him a new baseball life.

White, who pitched two seasons for the Olean Oilers in their back-to-back New York Collegiate Baseball League championship campaigns (2015,‘16), this season will manage his former team as it returns after a two-year hiatus due to Covid 19.

White, who turns 25 Tuesday, is an Amherst native whose collegiate baseball career started at Lackawanna Community College, continued at the University at Buffalo until that school dumped the sport, and ended at St. Bonaventure where he also hooked up with the Oilers for two sparkling seasons.

These days, a Bona MBA in hand, he works in Charlotte as a recruiter for Signature Consultants, one of the largest staffing agencies in the country. But he never forgot his time with the Oilers and his love for Olean.

“I PLAYED under Bobby Bell and we had a special relationship,” White said. “Obviously, he was my manager but we became close and we’re still in contact. I always looked up to him. I remember being in that dugout — I didn’t get a lot of playing time (because) I had some injury problems and whatnot — thinking, ‘I want to be him someday.’ He was a players’ coach, everybody loved him and he’s really the reason I got into managing.”

White continued, “When the pandemic hit and the Oilers didn’t play for a couple of years, I was glad to hear that Matt Fidurko and the guys were doing what they could to turn them around and get them back on the field.

“I actually bought into the Board of Directors because I wanted to be part of the organization. Then in November or December I got a text from Matt and he said, ‘We want to start interviewing people for the head-coaching job and I want you to be part of the process.’”

He recalled, “We interviewed a couple of people but with this being the first year we have the keys to the organization, we didn’t feel right giving (the manager’s job) to somebody from the outside, especially in Year 1. So I sent Matt a text one day and said, ‘I want to get into coaching, I love the game of baseball.’ I was an average player, but I think my biggest talent comes from getting guys to rally around each other and being a leader on the ball field.

“He said, ‘Yes.’ I told my girlfriend, ‘They offered me this job’ and she said, ‘You know you have to take it,’ and I said, ‘Yup.’” I didn’t even hesitate. Matt said, “Do you want it?’ And I said, ‘I sure do.’”

THE ODDITY, of course, is that White has never managed a game.

But he pointed out, “I’ve been the captain of just about any baseball team I can remember besides my two years at Buffalo.

“I’ve had great role models, Bobby Bell with the Oilers, Bruce Thompson, my coach at Lackawanna Community College, was fantastic and those two guys were the reason I even saw myself getting into coaching.”

And, naturally. there was one other person.

“Obviously, I got to Bona (after UB’s program folded) with Larry Sudbrook, who all you could do was idolize him … he’s been there so long and so many people respect him, his wisdom and his knowledge.

“He was my favorite person I ever played for because of his stories … he was so admirable, the passion for the game you need to have to be there that long (nearly 40 years). He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever met in my life, I love Larry, we still talk to this day.”

White admitted, “I’m looking forward to coming back up (next Sunday). I spent six years in college and played two seasons because of injuries (including Tommy John surgery) and everything else that happened (two lost years to the pandemic).”

Because of coronavirus, White has been working remotely in his full-time job and that’s what he’ll do in the 10-plus weeks of managing the Oilers, who open their season on June 6.

Of this opportunity, he concluded, “There were so many times during my playing career that I fell in and out of love with baseball because of everything that was going on. I think this is where I can really make a footprint for myself and more importantly for the community.

“I love Olean so much. My grandmother lives there, my dad and all my uncles went to high school there. I’m really excited about the community even more than for a stepping stone in my career.”

(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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