'Did he get it?!' See the HR robbery of the season

White adds a two-run homer as part of 3-for-4 night in win

May 31st, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Eli White drifted back to the wall, leaning up on the visitor’s bullpen of Globe Life Field on Monday night as Ji-Man Choi’s long fly ball hung in the air.

Off the bat, it seemed like the Rays first baseman had hit a no-doubt three-run homer to put Tampa Bay up early, and you can see why. Choi hit the ball 405 feet into deep left-center field with a 106.1 mph exit velocity and an expected batting average of .850.

But not if White had anything to say about it.

The outfielder leaped at the warning track, falling halfway back into the visitor's bullpen and snagged the ball to rob Choi of securing his fifth home run of the year, helping keep the game scoreless in the first in the Rangers' 9-5 series opening win over the Rays.

White said he can’t even recall making a play like that, but it’s one he’s dreamed of ever since transitioning to the outfield during his time in the Minors. 

“It was definitely the best play I've ever made,” White explained. “As I was tracking it, I felt good about where I was, but honestly [I] didn't know if I could get it at first. I just jumped as high as I could. It was a really fun play."

“The amount of extension he got and the vertical -- I don't know if we have any numbers on that -- but I've never seen or been a part of anything like it,” added Rangers starter Glenn Otto. “He’s one of the most athletic guys I've been around. Maybe he’s Spider-Man. I [have to] ask that question. … It saved me honestly. ”

Choi, who stopped well before even reaching first base, couldn’t do anything but shake his head and chuckle as he watched White’s magic in the outfield.

It was a sign of things to come for the Rays, who went 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position but stranded nine men on base against the Rangers' pitching staff.

“If there was any sign that the night wasn't going to go our way, maybe that should have been it,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Ji-Man got a lot of that baseball. I thought it was a homer off the bat, but Eli White -- that was just a tremendous play.”

It wasn’t the first time White has made a spectacular defensive play even just this season, and it likely won’t be the last, but making plays of that caliber to set the tone of the game will come few and far between.

“That play was one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “Just how high he got. He just kept going up, he kept rising. I’ve said this many times, [but] this guy is the best athlete we have in the organization, so it's not surprising at all.”

White also made a sliding play in the top of the eighth inning on a sinking line drive to rob Vidal Bruján of a potential base hit.

Woodward and coaches at every level have consistently said White is probably the best defensive outfielder in the Rangers' organization.

He’s consistently shown that and more, so much that it keeps him in the lineup at the Major League level despite a slow start offensively. White rewarded that faith by promptly smacking a two-run homer of his own in the second inning. It was a 417-foot shot to straightaway center that Rays outfielder Brett Phillips didn’t even have a chance of robbing.

White utilized his best asset -- his speed -- once again when he added a bunt single in the sixth inning. At 30.2 ft./sec., he has the third-fastest sprint speed in MLB (27 ft./sec. is MLB average, 30 ft./sec. is considered “elite”).

He finished 3-for-4 to match his career-high for hits in a single game.

“I think the bunt made me the happiest,” Woodward said. “The one thing I've really challenged him on is bunting. He's so fast. He's the fastest guy in the big leagues. Like, just use it to create havoc. It’s such a weapon … I know he robbed a homer and hit a homer, but it was just a really good game for him today [overall].”