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April 4, 2013
White, Overstreet make turning two an art form
TUSCALOOSA | It was a chance encounter, a pair of baseball-loving dads and their 8-year-old sons lined up next to the other for introductions at a summer youth league tournament.
One family from Bellevue, Wash., the other from Boaz, world's apart but with more in common than you might think.
Had Mikey White played on a team from Seattle (the teams were lined up alphabetically) instead of its neighboring suburb, the Alabama baseball team might have been without its most dynamic middle infield in recent memory.
White, the shortstop, met Kyle Overstreet, a second baseman, that day, setting off a domino effect that resounds to this day.
It all began with a quick conversation between the dads, Mike White, a UA football letterman in 1983-84, and Jeff Overstreet.
"There was the big guy standing beside me, and we started talking, and I found out he played for the Bear," Jeff Overstreet said. "We hit it off from there, and when he moved the family backed to Alabama he called me up, and the boys have been working together ever since."
Jeff Overstreet is something of a defensive specialist, serving as a volunteer coach at Snead State Community College and Boaz High School. He also coached his son's youth league teams and worked with Mikey White, who would make the trip over from Birmingham. During those summer and fall league games and endless practices, he helped hone the Overstreet-to-White connection.
It was called O.J. Bootcamp, named for Jeff Overstreet's nickname "O.J."
"At 10 and 11 I used to go up to his house all the time and stay weeks with him and do what we call O.J. Boot Camp," Mikey White said. "His dad would put us through workouts all week, just miserable workouts. It would be like where we can't move at the end of the week."
All that effort paid off when both were recruited by the Crimson Tide, with UA coaches noticing both as freshmen in high school.
There is a rhythm the duo share, a language all their own. It's in a look or a hand signal.
"I think it's a lot of just knowing each other, being able to get the ball where we want it," Kyle Overstreet said.
Their talent and chemistry were on full display the first game of their college careers, a couple of freshmen in the starting lineup. And it didn't take long.
In the first inning of UA's season opener against Virginia Military Institute, the smooth-fielding Overstreet scooped up a grounder and tossed it to White for the beginning of a double play. It was the first of Alabama's 37 double plays in 30 games this season. Of those 37, Overstreet or White has been involved in every one.
For perspective, Alabama had a total of 46 in 55 games in 2012.
"We get excited when someone gets on base," Overstreet said. "We really do."
It's a shared enthusiasm.
"When there's one out and we walk a guy, we're kind of pumped," White said.
It's become so common that teammates and fans have come to expect it.
"The pitchers feel that," UA coach Mitch Gaspard said. "They know, 'If I can just get a ground ball, then we're going to pick it up and turn a double play.'"
Gaspard has an appreciation for that skill set. It's kept Alabama in games and helped win a few. He knew each player was good but had no idea how good they were together.
"Quite honestly, after two weeks of practice we knew that there was something special between those two," he said. "It was evident that in their minds when they stepped on campus that, 'Hey, we're going to be the two middle infielders.'
"They work to make those plays. If you go out to practice today or three weeks ago, these guys are turning 75-100 double plays every single day. It's not always we're making them do that. They're doing that on their own. They're trying to perfect their craft every day. That's why they're good."
Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.