Ervin tells us that the driver has arrived to take us to the game, so White changes into some rock star–looking Volcom gear – cords, a T-shirt, and a black vest with diamonds on it – and we bail. In the car I ask him what's left for him to accomplish, having already done so much at such a young age.
"I just want to be the strongest man alive," he deadpans. "Do squat thrusts." He chuckles, then passes on that he's heard skateboarding may become part of the Olympics in 2012. "How would that be?" he marvels. "Skating in the Olympics? It would be like winter and summer gold medals in X Games on a whole other level."
Hey, it's fuckin' what's-his-name," booms a voice from the dugout. It's Padres rookie third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, grinning his face off. Like several of his teammates, he's watching White get pre-pitch tips from the club's star righty Jake Peavy for the local Fox affiliate's pregame show.
The stands aren't full yet, but several kids (many of whom are redheaded) and young women trickle down the grandstand to get White's attention. I take the opportunity to ask Ervin what he thinks is next for White, beyond competing. "I'm starting to get sent a lot of scripts," he says. As I watch, White joke naturally with Peavy on camera, it doesn't seem that far-fetched. White puts a stop to the pregame filming only when another group with a video camera approaches. After a few seconds, he walks toward me, half-laughing and half-grimacing. "They wanted me to do shout-outs. I don't do shout-outs."
Under the grandstands White seems to know almost everyone – a surgeon who did work on his knee, a young female Padres employee whom White admits he'd had a crush on in grade school – and he gives them all, along with total strangers, ample time.
"Throwing out the first pitch?" they'd ask.
"Yep," he'd say. "Nooooo pressure." White spends half his life upside down at high rates of speed, and all afternoon he's been gravely concerned with whether he'll "rip it" when throwing a baseball 60 feet.
When the time comes he delivers a decent strike, and as he walks off the field he tells a couple of guys in Padres uniforms, "Good luck tonight." They inform him they're just ball boys.
We join some publicists and a kid who won a Shaun White look-alike contest (hence all the redheads) inside the California Grown corporate box in left field. Jesse and his girlfriend arrive, and we all settle into the seats in front of the box to watch the game. Jesse tells a story about going to a Padres game as a kid, and the Rog dove over a couple of fellow fans to barehand a home-run ball.
"I think Shaun got a lot of Dad's competitive nature, his drive, and his strength," Jesse says. "It makes me laugh to think about how similar they are. They even walk alike. Seriously, it's really weird. But they are different in their ability to assess situations. The Rog is great, but he has definitely made some wrong decisions when on a snowboard. Just ask him about breaking his nose at Mammoth. Shaun has this knack of seeing things beforehand, assessing them, and making the right choice."
The Rog, who cops only to a separated shoulder at Mammoth when I phone him later, thinks White's levelheadedness stems from growing up in a tight-knit family. "We were together so much that the kids never really were able to get off on the wrong foot, like hanging out where they shouldn't. If it wasn't a competition we were going to, it was an event, like an MTV thing where he wanted to go and skate the ramp." Still, the elder White is amazed at how his son can juggle so much now. "It's like Donkey Kong, where the barrels come from one side or the other, and you climb the ladder. I was thinking, How long can this go on? And it's done nothing but accelerate."
Since more barrels could come in the form of acting gigs, I ask White about his prospects in the field.
"I could see myself doing some of that stuff," he says. His work thus far includes an HP commercial and a Scorsese-helmed AmEx spot, where behind the scenes, White says, fellow thespian Andre Agassi took one look at his red mane, shook his head sadly, and lamented, "You're gonna have that until you're 80."
"Mark doesn't even send me half of the scripts," White continues. "I've gotten tons that I just don't think are that rad."
Because they want you to be Spicoli 2.0?
"Kinda," he says. "I just figure you gotta bust into it in a good way instead of just doing it 'cause it's there."
Young fans line up on the catwalk facing our seats and call White's name. Older guys from the box next to us stream over for pictures and autographs. The mom of the look-alike asks White to record the outgoing message on her son's phone, and he complies. He graciously ducks into the box again to fulfill some phone interview duties. Ervin looks at me and says, "We could be anywhere, Moscow, and this is the reaction he gets. I don't know how he does it. But he likes it."
When I look into the box, all I see are a mess of red hair and a gigantic smile as White jabbers away on the phone. It dawns on me that all of this is Shaun Time as well. What good is being a star if you can't relish it?
After the game, on the way out, I ask White how he would rate his life, and without pausing too long, he gives it "an 8 or 9." I knew he wouldn't say 10. That probably won't come until he wins an Oscar. Or until he hears about some kid in some jam room somewhere in America trying to learn to play a Shaun White riff on a Shaun White guitar.
As we pile into the SUV, heading back to the hills, White considers the rating again, and adds, "I'm just trying to have the most fun I can right now."