Feb. 27, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Krystan White is strong. The senior South Carolina infielder gets that from her father, Buck. Now more than ever, she tries to channel her dad’s strength. Forrest Baxter “Buck” White III died November 30, 2017, due to injuries sustained in a car accident a couple of weeks prior. He was 51.
“Some days are tougher than others,” White said. “All these people have said ‘you remind me so much of your dad.’ I just want his light and his spirit to continue to shine through me. During those broken times, that’s what gets me through. I can just feel his spirit coming through me and picking me up through those moments.”
White has the words “play for him” on her glove to honor her father, and the Gamecocks placed his name and a special ribbon on the seat he normally occupied behind the first base dugout at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field this season.
“He sat in the same spot, right above our dugout in the middle section, about four seats over,” White said. “Every time I would go to bat, I would look at my mom (Leigh Ann). I’d point at her, and she’d give me a thumb’s up. Daddy is sitting beside her, and he’s always give a little fist pump, a ‘let’s go,’ or a little wink or something. I would definitely look up there before every at bat.”
White also designed a special wristband to carry with her throughout the season.
“I finally ended up going with ‘Buck Strong,’” White said of the wristbands, which will also be worn by teammates and staff. “It has two buck heads on the end, and on the back-center it has a cross. Just for something to look at when things get tough in the game, or just any situation to remember the strength, and his character and qualities that he had. I just want to try to bring that to the game this year. He was fearless and confident.”
White always believed in her dad. She wears number 11 because that was her dad’s number, and she fondly recalls a lot of days playing ball with him in the yard as a youngster.
“Not just softball,” White said. “We played football, basketball; every single sport. He was very athletic. I was very fortunate to adapt those athletic abilities from him. It was always catch. It was always going to the field and just having fun together through sports. That’s what we shared the most.
“I was definitely a daddy’s girl. A lot of people would say I was a ‘mini-Buck. I look just like him. I act just like him. When I’m on the field, I like to have a good time. I’m a goofball. He’s a goofball.
“He could do anything he put his mind to. He remodeled our house. Growing up, I was always his little sidekick. If that was holding a tool or holding some board, you always found me right beside him doing whatever he was doing.”
He truly made you believe in yourself.
While your senior season is something many student-athletes think about as a last chance to do something great, White admits it’s been hard to think about this season.
“I just want to go out there and play for him and give it all I’ve got to make him proud,” White said. “Every time I go to think about the season, it’s tough for me because I know this year is going to be a hard year for me. He was at every single game. It just won’t be the same without having him there. He was the person that helped me become the ball player I am. As far as goals, I just want to have fun and not let this last year be taken for granted.”
It’s hard not to be a fan of Krystan White. She’s been a starter since she arrived on campus for head coach Beverly Smith, and what makes her unique is that she has started at every position in the infield, and played all of them well. With the depth the Gamecocks have in the middle infield, White moved to first base for her senior year.
“It doesn’t matter where I’m playing,” White said. “I’ll do anything to be in the lineup. If that means playing first base, I’m playing first base.”
Wherever she played, Buck was a mainstay at all of his daughter’s games.
“I can probably count on one hand the games he’s missed in three years,” White said. “What stood out to me the most was for my away games. He knew from the beginning that he was going to come to every single game, but he would wait until the week of (the games) to book flights or book hotels. He would leave work that Thursday evening and drive all through that night to get there for the Friday night the game. If that required sleeping in the truck for a couple of hours, he would. He made it to every single game. Then he’d drive back Sunday all through the night and then go straight into work on Monday. He sacrificed everything to be at all of my games.”
Buck was a retired major in the United States Army and served during Operation Iraqi Freedom. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson served in Buck’s unit and gave a eulogy at his funeral.
“He talked about how you would just look at daddy, and you would just know that anything was possible,” White said proudly. “He just gave you that belief that anything was possible under his control. When I’d go up to the plate, and I’d just look at him, and he’d give me just something – that feeling that he truly believed in me, and knew that I was going to come through in that situation. It was one of those feelings where you look at somebody, and they give you that confidence just through that eye contact.
“He truly made you believe in yourself.”
Buck made an impact on White’s teammates and their families as well. Wherever she plays in the lineup, Buck’s influence will still be felt, and his reserved seat is a reminder of how he impacted more than just his immediate family.
“Everyone talked about his strength and how strong he was,” White said. “He had a strong personality that everyone was drawn too. He was very confident, very wise, and very strong in his faith as well. The word ‘strength’ just kept popping up, so when I think of my dad, I think of how strong he was as a person in all aspects of his life.”
White also learned a lot of life lessons from Buck that she holds dearly.
“He always would tell me ‘softball is life, and life is softball,’” White recalled. “The lessons that you truly do learn on the field, you can apply in all aspects of life. I truly believe that being a college athlete will better me as a person and the lessons I can apply once I leave here. I keep talking about his strength. One of things he would always tell me is not to live life lukewarm. He would always challenge me in my faith, he would always challenge me in softball, my character and just never settling with who I am in that moment, and knowing that there is always a way to better myself. I know this is cliché, but to never give up and to push through anything and anything is possible. He definitely showed me that in the way he lived life.”
Krystan White; Buck strong.
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