Eli’s crazy ride: New Albany native was key part of Giants' championship squad

By CHRIS KIEFFER / NEMS Daily Journal

When San Francisco Giants catcher Eli Whiteside walked into an elementary school classroom in Tupelo last week, the New Albany native donned his gray game jersey with the “World Series” patch sown onto his right arm.
“It was a crazy month,” Whiteside said of the Giants’ playoff run, which ended on Nov. 1 with a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers that gave the franchise its first world championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
In addressing the third- and fourth-grade students as their invited guest and speaking to the media afterward, Whiteside tried to describe the highs and lows of his career, including the feeling of winning a title.
“It has been crazy,” Whiteside said. “The whole playoff atmosphere was unbelievable. The city of San Francisco was unbelievable. To see the excitement that we brought to the city was unbelievable.
“It was all pretty crazy, and I don’t think it has set in for me and my wife yet that we won the World Series or were even a part of it.”
As the Giants’ reserve catcher, Whiteside appeared in 56 games and hit .238 with four home runs and 10 RBI. However, playing behind eventual Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey, one of the team’s top sluggers, Whiteside did not see action in any of the team’s 15 postseason games.
He said that didn’t take any magic away from a season that began with him making an Opening Day roster for the first time in 10 seasons of professional baseball.
“My goal was to make a Big League roster, and anything beyond that would be icing on the cake,” said Whiteside, who played his college ball at Delta State. “Winning a World Series was something I never thought in my wildest dreams, and it came true.”
The Giants used Whiteside as a mentor for Posey, and the 31-year old said that it was rewarding watching the rookie’s development.
“It was cool to see,” he said. “With him not being a catcher until his sophomore year of college, it was incredible. It showed what kind of athlete he is and how quickly he picked up the game and the position.”
Known for his solid defense, Whiteside is still under contract with the Giants and is hopeful that the franchise will have him back next season.
“Hopefully next year I will be back with the San Francisco Giants, and I hope we’ll be wearing jerseys with this World Series patch again and hopefully we’ll have another ring next year,” he said when asked by a student about his future plans.
Afterward, he acknowledged that nothing was guaranteed but said that he would do everything he could to position himself for next season.
“Everyone has to have two catchers,” he said. “This off-season, I’m going to work as hard as I ever have. I will control what I can control and that is the only thing you can do in baseball.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.