Originally posted Jan. 8, 2015
Numbers bond Blue Jays’ Martin, the Whites and the Greens
By Bob Elliott
This is like a lot of baseball stories.
It’s about numbers.
Not a whole lot of numbers.
And how one young man made a choice.
Logan White was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ scouting director when he chose infielder Russell Martin from Chipola College in the 17th round of the 2002 draft.
After spending the 2004 season at class-A Vero Beach, Martin accepted his scouting director’s offer to work out at “someplace warm” during the winter and headed to Phoenix, staying at White’s residence.
A deep friendship developed - not between the prospect and the scouting director, but between Martin, then 23, and Logan White, Jr., then seven.
Martin and young Logan played Xbox, poker (“not for money, though”) and wrassled with Lava, the family’s Great Dane.
“Russ and I go back to almost when I was in kindergarten,” young Logan said from Phoenix. “Russ was the first big guy who took me under his wing.”
Martin, the newest Blue Jays catcher after being giving the largest free-agent contract in franchise history, will be honoured Saturday night at the Baseball Canada annual awards banquet and fundraiser as he becomes the seventh inductee on to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence.
“I’m so happy for him, this is great news, I’m going to text him and congratulate him when I get off the phone,” young Logan said.
The first number is 55.
Logan Jr. wore it all the time.
Because it was Martin’s number ... first with his pop’s Dodgers (2006-10) and then with the New York Yankees (2011).
Logan wore No. 55 with the Cardinals as a 10-year-old and later that summer when he was picked for the Ahwatukee All-Stars in Phoenix.
“I started wearing Russell’s number when I started catching,” young Logan said. He gave up his pitching and playing third to don the gear. “Russell showed me basics, like the primary stance and the secondary catching stance.”
His father said Logan Jr. began catching to “be like Russ.”
And the next season with the Surf Dawgs and again when he made the 11-year-old All-Stars he wore No. 55. His father said little Logan wrote No. 55 on everything.
“Not many kids were new to teams, they knew Russell and I were friends,” said young No. 55.
A two-hour drive south of the White house in southeast Phoenix is Tucson and the house of Roxanna and John Green, a Dodgers supervising scout. The Greens had a loving house full with Dallas and Christina, grandchildren of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green. Green still advises with the Phillies and, not that Big Dallas is passionate, but ... when the Phillies have their closed-door organizational meetings in Clearwater, you can hear him in Dunedin if the wind is blowing the right way.
The Whites and Greens were baseball friends. John reached triple-A Columbus in 1990 before retiring and enrolling at the University of Arizona. White, then scouting for the Baltimore Orioles, hired him as a part-time scout.
White then became western U.S. supervisor for the San Diego Padres, so Green took his place with the Orioles getting a full-time job an area scout.
“The Whites and the Greens have been friends long before I was ever born,” said Logan, now a Grade 10 student.
The Greens would visit the Whites.
The Whites would travel south to see the Greens ... whenever their busy schedules had both scouts at home at the same time.
“I remember John coming for a visit and throwing batting practice in the backyard to Logan and Christina,” papa White recalled.
Christina was unique in so many ways. Born on 9/11 when the family was living in West Grove, Pa., she was one of the 50 “Faces of Hope” representing children from 50 states born on Sept. 11, 2001. Their images were printed in a book, with some proceeds going to a charity.
An A student, Christina played on her Little League team, was a dancer, a gymnast and a swimmer. She sang in the choir at St. Odilia Roman Catholic Church, belonged to Kids Helping Kids charity and had been elected to the student council as a third grader in her elementary school. Her maturity level showed in the way she helped care for brother Dallas, who has a form of autism.
On Jan. 8, 2011, Christina and a family friend attended U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords “Congress on Your Corner” meeting in a Safeway parking lot in Casas Adobes in the Tucson area.
A lone gunman shot Giffords and 18 others, six fatally.
“The news was on about a shooting in Tuscon I thought ‘that’s awful,’ and then how a little girl had been shot, I remember thinking ‘Oh that’s truly awful,’ “ papa White remembered.
White’s phone rang. He was busy outside, saw it was John Green and made a mental note to call him back. Another friend from Tucson called: “You need to call John.”
Christina had been fatally shot.
“We were devastated, Logan was devastated,” the father said.
“I was driving in the car and heard a nine-year old girl had been shot,” young Logan said, “about an hour later John called Dad with the awful news. We all sat looking at each other.”
The Whites were at the funeral, along with executives from the front offices of the Dodgers, the Phillies and other members of the scouting fraternity living in Arizona.
“I couldn’t say a word when I saw John,” young Logan said. “I just gave him a big hug.”
(I never told young Logan, but when I saw Christina’s grandpa in Philadelphia, I hugged Dallas, choked up and bolted.)
Christina’s organs were donated to a youngster in the Boston area.
Big D, as some with the Phillies called Dallas Green, managed the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series victory.
Green headed to the Chicago Cubs as president after the World Series win and in 1989 was hired to manage the New York Yankees. On a Sunday morning in Anaheim, Pat Gillick ended his 628-day drought dealing RF Jesse Barfield to the Yanks for LHP Al Leiter. Not that Wayne Parrish our boss at the Sun was into overkill.
But we ran about 10 pages on the trade in Monday’s paper and both Ken Fidlin and I headed to New York for Tuesday’s game. Ken spoke to Barfield and I was to write about Leiter. I entered manager Green’s office early in the old stadium.
As I entered Green was answering questions from a couple of writers asking about Barfield and his diminishing power numbers. Green was polite, but eventually grew tired of the exercise. He took after removing his uniform bottoms and as he fired them into the laundry basket “Well, Barfield’s numbers might be down, but the problem with Leiter ... is he doesn’t have any numbers.”
Just then a TV guy entered and he said “Hi Skip, sorry I’m late. I missed that. Could you re-do that over with the cameras running?”
Green told him where he could take his camera. Outside.
Before re-joining the Phillies, Green managed the New York Mets from 1993-96, which led to my favorite Dallas Green line. It came from Mets co-owner Nelson Doubleday, of publishing fame and he said: “When Sophia Loren looks at you ... you know you have been looked at. The same with Mr. Green.”
So, one slow day a couple of weeks of before spring started I found a head and shhoulders picture of actress Loren with a piercing gaze. Then, I found one of Green as the Mets manager staring intently at someone. I emailed them to the Phillies office in Clearwater. They were posted when he arrived. And he played gruff first time I saw him.
Big D could take some teasing.
And in the spring, baseball began again.
On April 1, the Little League season opened in the Canyon Del Oro northwest of Tucson, with bagpipes.
Field 1 of Canyon Del Oro Little League was renamed Christina Taylor Green Field. The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks chipped in to make improvements.
Roxanna and John Green, along with Austin, headed beyond the outfield fence where a statue of an angel made of metal from 9/11 was unveiled. It will stand forever in memory of the youngster who played third and sang Beyonce songs between innings on the bench with a desire to be the first woman to play in the majors.
Christina also had a goal to attend Penn State University and study political science. University president Graham Spanier said at a trustees meeting that because Green had “a profound impact on the university community,” she was memorialized with a brick on the Alumni Walk at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. The university issued her parents a diploma-like certificate recognizing Green for her embodiment of Penn State ideals of academic excellence, athletic success with honour and compassionate civic leadership.
And, further north in Phoenix, Logan began the season for the Surf Dawgs.
He wore No. 55.
The other number is 12.
The Whites were at the park when the president of the league came along asking Logan: “This can’t be right ... is it? Your son didn’t put pick No. 55. He marked down 12.”
Logan thought maybe his son had put his age in the wrong column on the all-star form. He asked Deena about No. 12 over Martin’s No. 55 and Deena said, “No, that’s not right.”
White went to investigate.
“Did you put down No. 12? Do you want that number?” the father asked.
His son became quiet.
One little tear began to trickle as the son answered, “Well, Dad, that was Christina’s number.”
Logan had never seen his pal Christina play, but he saw a picture of her in uniform at her funeral and thought this would be a “way to honour her.”
The father said the son acted on his own.
And now it was time to play.
Ahwatukee had not advanced out of district play the previous two years.
They went to Chandler and won districts.
They then went to Flagstaff won the sectionals earning a trip to Canyon De Oro and Christina Taylor Green Field ... formerly Field 1.
Before play began, the team headed to the angel statue in left centre as coach Rocky Kern and Logan White explained to the team what kind of person Christina was, why the field was named after her and how great a human being she was.
Late in the semifinal Ahwatukee trailed Gilbert National 9-7 with two men on when Logan came to the plate.
“It gives me chills to tell this part of the story,” the proud father says.
“All of a sudden, for the first time all game, the dugout starts screaming, ‘Do it for Christina! Do it for Christina!’ “
Young Logan did it for Christina.
He pulled a three-run homer to right putting Ahwatukee up 10-9 on the way to victory.
“I’ve seen him hit a few homers before, but this was probably one of the greatest moments of my life,” White said. “It was Christina looking down. I cried, it was happiness and it was sorrow, my son was there. Christina was not.”
Logan says he heard the dugout chants in the batter’s box before he drilled the 2-1 pitch, saying: “It was a surreal moment, I felt really locked in.”
Ahwatukee lost in the final to Rio Rico.
Logan White the father left the Dodgers at the end of 2014 to join the Padres, one of the most active teams this off-season.
Logan White Jr. plays for the Mountain Point Pride High in Phoenix.
His favourite team has changed since he wrassled in house with Martin, the Dodgers prospect in 2004.
“The Padres are my No. 1 team now, the Dodgers would be second,” Logan says. “I always root for Russell. Toronto is my favourite American League team.”
Logan White Jr. still wears No. 12.
Christina’s number stands alone.