By Corey B. Elliot
— She didn’t want to be viewed differently; she just wanted to play baseball.
For nine years, Gabby White has taken the field, playing a boys’ game and for the part of those years she has played it as well, if not better, than any boy on the field.
Little League baseball is a very special sport. It’s the make-up of most adolescent days and memories people have from playing sports as a child. The 13-year-old got into the sport because her brother played and up until now she hasn’t wanted to do anything else.
Gabby has played a few positions and if put to the test, she could probably play them all. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey is her favorite major leaguer and that’s only natural considering she’s a catcher herself.
However, unlike most who play the sport, White has had to accept that her dream of walking to the plate to the tune of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” wearing No. 12 in an MLB game, would never be a reality. The decision to fight for the right to have that opportunity was one Gabby had to make on her own.
“As a parent, fighting for her to be able to play school ball enters your mind, but we left it up to her, though,” her mother, Ashley Whitis, said. “How hard she wanted to fight it was her choice and she accepted things. It’s life. It is what it is. She knew at some point she would have to transition to girls’ sports so this past year she ended up going out for softball and she actually liked it. When I told her the paper was doing a story on her, she actually was against it because she doesn’t like to be looked at any different than any of the boys.”
A humble attitude for the girl that even wrestled for a few years in middle school during the down months between baseball seasons. She started when she was 5 and during that time she has been embraced and supported by everyone.
As far as being respected on the field, well, she had to earn that.
Not only as a surprise to her teammates and opponents but her father as well, Whitis was persistent and eventually broke the mold as one of the better players on the field.
Her father, Mike Whitis, coached her for five of the nine years so he knew better than anyone that bringing her into the sport wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. The difference between Gabby and the others was that this ball player wasn’t in the outfield chasing butterflies. She was trying to compete and when she didn’t have games she was trying to get better.
“At first I would tell her she couldn’t compete, every year it seemed like I was telling her it’s going to be the last year. The problem with that was she was a Top 5 player on her team almost every year and she could compete with those kids,” Mike said. “She is tenacious. She wants to go to the batting cage, she wants to better herself. It’s constantly practice, practice, practice. As a 9-year-old she didn’t want to go to practice but she turned it around and matured. Her first love is baseball.”
The unfortunate reality that there is no future in the sport for a female was a hard pill to swallow. While her teammates daydream about their walk-up song and a stadium full of fans cheering them on, Gabby has had to think differently.
“I don’t think there is any accepting that I can’t play in the big leagues,” she said. “I was about 10 when I realized I could only play for so long and this past year I fully grasped that, which kind of sucks. I definitely want a scholarship, though, and a Division I scholarship to a school I like that has what I want to do would be awesome.”
When she decided to take on softball, that alone was a tough task because she was playing nearly six games a week. The competition was different, the fields were completely different, and most of all, the ball size was a drastic difference. The transition, though, was just another Gabby had to file in her nine years of experience handling obstacles.
“Nine years of playing taught me a lot. I’m way more competitive and more confident. The transition to softball wasn’t bad. I really just miss the size of the ball the most. I hate the size of the softball,” Gabby said. “I definitely like baseball more, I haven’t truly transitioned yet. But whether it is baseball or softball, everyone has always been super supportive.”
This past year she was nominated for the Brownsburg All-Star team. Gabby batted .350 while playing two sports in one season and showed up to most games knocking line drives down the field lines, silencing all of the talking and snickering from her opponents.
“I hope they will see me as a baseball player that just played hard every game,” Gabby said.