SEATTLE -- When Evan White opens up about his family, it’s emotional, raw and from the heart. For Seattle’s fiercely loyal and humble first baseman, those closest to him come first, and that’s especially true for his mother, Erin, who has been there for just about every step of his path to the big leagues.
And this year’s Mother’s Day carried far more significant weight for the White family, who celebrated earlier than anticipated this year, when they congregated during the final week of April to mourn the passing of White’s grandfather, who played in the Reds organization way back when.
This year’s gathering was a celebration of life and a gratitude for being in each other’s company again. Last year, the pandemic limited in-person gatherings that kept the family from uniting and celebrating with Erin, and the challenges of physical distance became far more intensified given her health battling endometrial cancer. She had just gone through her third week of chemotherapy while the rest of the world, including Evan, were in a nationwide quarantine.
White remained in Arizona throughout the shutdown between Spring Training and Summer Camp while Erin recovered back in White’s childhood home in Ohio. There were constant FaceTime calls, check-ins and uncertainty.
Thankfully, Erin has since reached remission, and her return to good health is why Mother’s Day in 2021 was much more meaningful for the Whites than ever before.
“Without doubt,” White said. “Mother’s Day, it’s something we've always celebrated growing up, obviously. We’ve known from the very beginning that we've had such a great mom that loves us and supports us and everything that we do. When she got diagnosed with cancer a year or two ago now, the thought of actually losing her really, really hit us hard.”
The experience was one of the hardest he’s ever had to deal with, and it became further exacerbated by the pandemic.
“You obviously feel bad for everyone who has to deal with cancer, but when you get that call, you hear your mom crying and telling you, it definitely hits you pretty hard. So, to kind of remember those things, remembering all the things that she had to go through tonight to get back to health, it definitely sticks with us. We're very thankful she was able to do that.”
The Whites are back to remembering the fond times rather than the anxious. Evan’s recent trip home was highlighted by quality time and good company. After gifting Erin a necklace with his wife, Kari, White recalled his wedding day, and the mother-son dance.
“She picked ‘Perfect Fan’ by the Backstreet Boys,” he said, with a smile clearly beginning to form on the other side of the phone.
It was an all-encompassing tune to their close bond. White used to perform Backstreet Boys concerts in his childhood home back in his youth. The song’s lyrics echo a relationship of one person always being there for the other. And Erin is Evan’s perfect fan.
“The message hit exactly the nail on the head with ‘Perfect Fan, and she is,” White said. “She's been there for the good times, the bad times, and no matter what it is. Baseball, life in general, she's always there. The best hero I could ever ask for, so I’m very thankful for that. It’s kind of cool that she was able to tie that that song in with the band we listened to growing up.”
But that’s not even the moment that sticks out the most. That occurred when white was eight years old and rising through the kid-pitch ranks and was one day throwing a side session. His catcher was Erin, which was a regular tandem -- except for this time around she was eight months pregnant with his younger sister.
Even for how young White was, he recognized her love and support.
“She’s been very supportive from the very beginning,” White said. “Now, I'll be able to call her and just kind of be able to separate the game and just be able to see how she's doing, see how the rest of the family is doing. She’s been incredible the entire way.”