SARASOTA — Dylan White sat in the back of the Sarasota High dugout last spring and watched his best friend, Jason Sierra, solidify his spot in the Sailors’ lineup in his first season with the team.
White, a standout pitcher and first baseman, suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder at the end of his sophomore season — an injury that left him sidelined for his junior season.
Sierra, a standout outfielder and first baseman, stepped up and filled the void, while his best friend and one of his biggest supporters watched.
“When he first got injured, it (was hard) because he was a (great) player and he wasn’t (quite) the profile player he once was anymore because of that, so that was hard to see,” Sierra says.
“It was hard not to be able to play, but the best part about not being about able to play was seeing Jason pick up the load,” White says. “He had a great junior year.”
Now, after having spent the past 14 years playing together on the diamond, the best friends are preparing to take the field together for the final time this spring before heading off on their own.
White and Sierra both signed national letters of intent Nov. 14 to play college baseball. White will play for the University of Miami, while Sierra will head north to Vanderbilt University.
“I (verbally) committed my sophomore year, so it was cool to watch (Jason) go through the process,” White says. “I know he’s super excited to go there.”
White grew up a Hurricanes fan and knew early on he wanted to play for Miami.
“The coaches and everything just clicked down there,” White says. “It definitely was an easier transition. It felt like I was going to a professional (program), and the vibe down there is that they want to help you advance, which was my main goal.”
Sierra chose Vanderbilt over Miami, Florida, Central Florida and Florida State for its atmosphere and academics.
“It’s a small school and yet it’s still a major Division I program,” says Sierra, who plans to major in economics. “I value education and (Vanderbilt) felt like home. It’s a great relief and, yet, I still know that I have to work hard. There are many other kids in same position (who want) to be the best at the (next) level also.”
White and Sierra first met while attending TLC Child Care Center of Sarasota when they were 2 years old. The two quickly became friends, and before long they were tossing around Wiffle balls.
White and Sierra started playing T-ball together when they were 4 years old and have been playing together ever since. The two played on the same Little League baseball teams and played travel ball together on the same AAU teams with White’s dad as their coach.
“It’s just a great comfort playing next to your best friend,” Sierra says. “We’re going on 14 years here soon. We both have each other’s backs, and we help each other out when we’re struggling by offering tips or pointers.”
It wasn’t until their freshman year that White and Sierra found themselves on opposing fields for the first time. White began playing for the Sailors while Sierra spent his freshman and sophomore seasons playing for Cardinal Mooney.
Both White and Sierra thrived playing for their respective teams, but the two admit it was an adjustment not being on the field together.
“It was definitely different,” White says. “I’m so used to playing with him. We’re on the same page every time. Not being able to play with your best friend was kind of weird, but it was a good experience for us to go our different ways.”
Having been cleared to pitch again, White has spent the off season working on strength and conditioning in hopes of picking up where he left off at the end of his sophomore season.
“It gave me more motivation to come back and not only to pitch but hit, too,” White says. “I’m just glad I can finally play.”
White and Sierra will officially take the field next month for the start of their senior season — a season the two would like to see culminate with a state championship.
“The last two years weren’t true Sarasota High School baseball,” White says. “We just have to play as a team and mesh together because once you get back to districts, it’s do or die.”
“I’m just looking forward to finishing out our high school careers together,” Sierra says. “We started together and we’re about to end together. We’re both going on to very good schools and (hopefully) we’ll continue to have success.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.