Simon Whiteman has grip on baseball
For the briefest of instances, the blue eyes that see the world as holding endless possibilities, were stricken with doubt at an unthinkable proposal — life without baseball.
Simon Whiteman, with a mental dexterity that matches his physical skill set that allows the Trumbull native and Fairfield Prep standout to turn every part of baseball into his personal playground, recovered quickly.
“I’ve been blessed with baseball and have been able to use that passion to go to one of our nation’s top schools,” Whiteman said after gathering with family, friends and coaches for a photo opportunity highlighting his choice to attend Yale University.
“I’d spend more time working with the student government. Photography and poetry are other interests I’d be able to spend more time on if I couldn’t play baseball.”
Whiteman’s turned the doomsday scenario of parting ways with baseball as adaptly as he now runs the bases for coach Rudy Mauritz at Prep and Brett Connor for the Trumbull Legion team, and will be shortly for Yale head coach John Stuper.
“My time at Prep has been phenomenal,” Whiteman said. “I have been exposed to many diverse individuals, interesting experiences, and different philosophies.
“I think Prep has allowed for my growth as a well-rounded human being in addition to my academic studies.”
Mauritz said, “Simon has proven himself to be hardworking and tremendously dedicated. And when you combine these attributes with the fact he has tremendous speed, Simon was bound to open the eyes of college baseball coaches.”
While it is difficult for any of life’s daily challenges to give Whiteman pause, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound infielder-outfielder was thrown for a curve waiting to hear of his acceptance from Yale.
“It is a stressful process,” Whiteman said. “I got through by telling myself it was like any tough situation in a game; face it head on and deal with it.”
Whiteman credits his mom Marian and dad Jamie for helping him through the down days.
“They have been supportive in every area of my life,” he said. “I strive for excellence. That can be difficult. They are there for me and push me when I get down.
“I was playing phone tag with Coach (Tucker) Frawley at Yale, and then it was over in two days (July 28-29),” he said. “I was ecstatic. I’ve met the other six players in the incoming class. It is a great group and we can’t wait to get started.”
Frawley, Yale’s associate head coach said:
“We simply could not be more excited to have Simon enter the fold here at Yale next fall.
“From a pure baseball standpoint, he fits the bill for what we look for from our top of the order hitters — he works the count, consistently puts the ball in play, puts an incredible amount of pressure on the defense because of his speed, and is a versatile defender with experience in both the infield and outfield.
“His character, however, is what sold us Simon as a recruit. As a program that evaluated recruits across the country, Simon emerged as one of the hardest working ballplayers we saw all recruiting season.
“That work ethic is evident on the field but also in the classroom which makes Yale, as we see it, a great athletic, academic, and social fit for Simon going forward.
“We can’t wait to get started with him this fall.”
Baseball has been an integral part of Whiteman’s life beginning with Trumbull Little League, Babe Ruth and then Legion.
“The whole game is fantastic to me,” he said. “I love baseball. It fires me up inside. The most important thing is to respect the game. Whether you are down 10 runs or up 20, make the plays that need to be made.
“There is nothing more perfect that playing a clean game, where both teams compete and play the game the way it was meant. Now, that’s fun.”
Whiteman has no trouble looking back to where it all started.
“The Trumbull leagues have been undeniably instrumental in my success. I would not be where I am today without the help of so many people who believed in me.
“In addition to coach Brett Conner, who has been my coach for the past five years, I have to thank Mr. (Anthony) Vinci for giving me the opportunity to play Junior Legion as a 13 year old, back in the summer before eighth grade. And Mike O’Keefe has been my hitting coach for all these years He taught me how to hit with two strikes, which contributed valuably on my path to Yale as a leadoff hitter.”
“It seems remarkable now to think of the chances I have been given throughout my years in the program. I have always been coached by great men, from Little League to Senior Legion: all of whom believed that I could do something special.
“It was my coaches who cultivated my work ethic, refined my talent, and pushed me beyond where I ever thought possible.
“The Trumbull leagues, especially Legion, are incredibly competitive, and that competition has helped motivate me to always be my best.
“Simon has played for me since he was 13 years old and I remember our first year together he told me his dream was to play baseball and earn an Ivy League education.
“Simon’s dream came to fruition and I couldn’t be happier for him, he earned it through his work ethic.
“As a player Simon is a coache’s dream. Besides his athletic ability, Simon is intelligent, hard working, motivated, and most importantly coachable.
“Simon works 365 days a year on his baseball skills. I’m not sure Simon realizes it, but he made an impact on making me a better coach. As much as I expected his best day in and day out, he expected the same from his coaches.
“He is a great teammate and the guys look up to him. He sets high expectations and they notice how his hard work is paid off. Guys feed off of him, which creates a great environment to be around.”
Whiteman will take up chemical engineering in college, and pointed out that he has always been a match-science guy.
“I’d like to study abroad at some point, maybe in Spain,” he said. “That would be great if the opportunity ever presents itself.”
An All-Southern Connecticut Conference player in baseball and soccer, Whiteman was joined on the pitch this past fall by his brother Teddy, a freshman at Prep.
“We have a great relationship,” Whitman said. “We’re brothers, but also best friends. We don’t fight much, but we like to get after it and debate our differences.”
Whiteman, who continues to work with Trumbull’s TOPS soccer as well as the Kennedy Center working with individuals with disabilities in each group, is a top defender and helped the Jesuits win the SCC soccer title in 2013.
He runs indoor track and is closing in on the program 20-year record of 6.71 in the 55-meter run. His top time as a junior was 6.80.
The Yale-bound Whiteman, ironically was presented with the Harvard Book Club Award at a National Honor Society Mass. The award goes to an outstanding member of the student body who combines high scholarship with outstanding character.
“As for the Yale-Harvard rivalry, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Kevin (Stone, his teammate at Prep and soon to be Harvard student) is a fantastic player and a great guy, in addition to being one of my great friends.
“I will definitely try to maintain our friendship throughout college, despite the competition. Our college choices are a perfect way to end our cycle: teammates at Prep, rivals in the summer during Legion, and now rivals in college. I look forward to facing him over the next four years.”