ANDOVER — These days around the Phillips Academy baseball program, it’s easy to get lost in “Thomas White Hysteria.”
Hey, the 6-foot-5 southpaw with the mid-’90s fastball is the highest-rated junior baseball prospect in the nation, so it’s pretty well deserved.
But somehow, the Division 1 college trainers found their way to another Big Blue stallion. Maybe they just listened to White’s extreme gas glove pop.
The guy in that glove is Haverhill wide receiver Tommy McAndrews, Phillips’ captain and one hell of a prospect in his own right.
Saturday night here on the Greater Lawrence Tech turf, McAndrews, White and the Big Blue opened the 2022 campaign with victory over Bridgton Academy.
White, throwing for one of the few times in his recent life without radar guns galore, was his usual dazzling, untouchable self. He went four hitless innings, striking out eight and walking one.
McAndrews, who has committed to playing his college baseball at Fordham, was also on his game, both behind home plate and with a bat in hand.
A low-.300 hitter a year ago, he chained a two-out RBI single to get the Big Blue started early.
Granted, when your day at the office includes the possibility of catching someone like Rowley’s White, it’s easy enough to show up at the park eager to get going.
“Oh my God, that’s amazing. I’ve caught guys in my time playing summer ball, but I’ve never seen anyone throw so effortlessly,” McAndrews said.
“Everyone I know who knows baseball is like, ‘Are you a catcher at the AP? Have you ever caught Thomas? What’s that like?’ I can’t even explain it. And he’s a great boy. I love catching him.
McAndrews’ story is certainly one of hard work and perseverance. A lifelong resident of Haverhill, he attended Amesbury Public Schools from Primary through School Choice, then attended St. John’s Prep College.
Phillips was always in his sights.
“You just can’t compete with the level of baseball that we have and the academics. That’s really what I was looking for,” McAndrews said.
“(Coach Kevin Graber) does a great job of sending people to the next level, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
The door wasn’t exactly open for him at Andover. Originally, according to Graber, he was not accepted as a ninth grader. But McAndrews hit the books like a suspended curve ball — that is, hard — and boosted his grades and test scores.
Four years later, the folks at Big Blue know they’re lucky to have the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder on campus.
McAndrews competed hard on the sports fields.
“I played four years of college football, a bit of basketball but mostly baseball,” he said. “I played linebacker and tight end, I liked that. Playing football was fun, but baseball is my thing.
He played junior varsity baseball as a freshman before seeing the spring of 2020 erased.
“Last year I had my chance to start,” he said, noting that he made up for every game. “I think I was on a third team (all-star prep team), but that was definitely motivation for this year. He definitely lit a fire under my butt. I mean, there was definitely a big adjustment for me in coming to this.
Graber knew what kind of leader and competitor he had at McAndrews. He passed the word on to his upper-level connections.
“KG put me on the radar and (Fordham) saw me play this summer, and that was it,” McAndrews said.
There were other opportunities. He heard of some Patriot League schools, and Dayton of the Atlantic-10 Conference showed some interest, but as McAndrews said, “Fordham was the place.”
White and McAndrews merged almost immediately. The two spent a lot of time perfecting their tandem act.
“I’m calling the games. I’ve really gained my trust with him. He trusts me now. I think he shook me once (Saturday night). He lets me drive there,” McAndrews said.
“We have this connection down. At one point he came here, I think he threw a 2-2 change (for a strikeout, of course). He already had that grip, because that was exactly what I wanted.
“We’re starting to be on the same page because I live with him at school. The two of us and three other baseball kids have a home. We were just able to build that connection together.
Their common bond is built in their old-fashioned work ethic. And don’t think McAndrews doesn’t cherish every day with the sensational White.
“I always heard about him. We couldn’t see him (because of the pandemic) his first year,” McAndrews said. “Last year you could see the potential in him. And that’s him going out like, ‘I’m that guy.’ Just dominating.
“It makes it even more special that he’s from here. You just don’t see that. I feel really lucky to have caught him.