Tabor College pitcher Jacob Webb became just the second Bluejay in school history to be selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft when he was chosen by the Atlanta Braves in the 18th round Saturday, June 7, as the 553rd overall selection.
The Bluejays? first draft pick, catcher Tyson Kendrick, was selected by the Detroit Tigers in 2010.
This year?s draft spanned three days, tallying 1,215 picks over 40 rounds.
?It was nerve-wracking,? Webb said of the draft. ?A lot of anxiety just waiting.?
After some initial negotiation, Webb and the team reached an agreement, he said. He gave a verbal commitment the Sunday after he was drafted and signed a contract upon arriving at the Braves? minicamp in Orlando, Fla., later that week.
?It?s happened pretty fast,? Webb said. ?It was quicker than I thought it was going to be.?
Webb, who will be playing with the Gulf Coast League Braves, said his experience at minicamp has been ?awesome,? and everyone he?s been around has the same goal of preparing the draftees for the big league.
?They treat everyone the exact same,? he said. ?They?re all in it to make the organization better, to make you better as a person.
?The facilities are unreal. Everything they do is just top of the line.?
Webb said he would begin play this week, and will most likely stay in Orlando through the end of August, depending on whether or not he is moved up.
Journey to Tabor
After graduating from Riverside Polytechnic High School in 2011, he spent a year at Riverside Community College before transferring to Tabor College in 2012 to continue playing ball.
?I really wanted to play a position when I went to Tabor, but it kind of just panned out,? Webb said. ?I was a better pitcher than I was a position player, so I had a better chance to go farther with it, so I kind of just stuck with it.?
His first year at Tabor, Webb was listed on the roster as a right-handed pitcher and third baseman. As a pitcher, he went 4-4 on the season with an ERA of 1.47 over 55 innings. He started two games and pitched one complete game, tallying 50 strikeouts.
Webb?s playing time increased his second year at Tabor. He went 11-4 on the 2014 season, ranking eighth in wins in NAIA Division I. He pitched a total of 1051?3 innings with an ERA of 1.88. He started 15 games and pitched 10 complete games, including two shutouts.
He ranked fourth in Division I in total batters struck out with 129, which surpassed Tabor?s individual season strikeouts record set by David Alexander in 1990 at 99.
Webb also holds the Tabor record for strikeouts per game with 15.
He was KCAC Co-Pitcher of the Year this season and was an All-KCAC first-team selection. In addition, he received honorable mention as an NAIA All-American.
Webb and the Bluejays advanced to the NAIA World Series for the first time in program history this past season, having won the conference regular season, the KCAC tournament championship and the NAIA Opening Round tournament hosted in Hutchinson.
At the World Series, Webb got the start against top-seeded Oklahoma Baptist in Tabor?s second outing. He dueled fellow draft pick Julian Merryweather, who was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the fifth round. Webb gave up six hits and one earned run over eight innings in Tabor?s 3-1 loss.
?He definitely dominated us with the fastball,? Webb said of Merryweather. ?He overpowered us, but you can only do so much. You win some, you lose some.?
Tabor gained its second World Series win after that before falling to Oklahoma Wesleyan to conclude the run with a 2-2 record.
?It was pretty unreal,? Webb said of the World Series. ?It was fun, definitely, because it was the first time that Tabor?s ever been there.
?At the time, we were really on a hot streak, and yeah, we got placed pretty low in the (seeding), but we just felt like we had it, like we could do it. We made some mental mistakes just like everyone else does, but some cost more than others. I felt we had a very great chance to go all the way.?
A highlight of Webb?s Tabor career was pitching a complete-game shutout in Tabor?s 4-0 victory over the University of Jamestown (N.D.) in the NAIA Opening Round semifinals.
He scattered four hits over nine innings of work, while walking two batters and striking out six.
?I threw really well, and it was to basically put us in the championship without having to deal with a loss and going to the loser?s bracket, and it just made our chances that much better,? he said. ?It just boosted everyone?s confidence.?
Webb said the most challenging thing about pitching is the adversity faced on the mound.
?You?re always dealing with adversity and pressure, and you always have to overcome it in every situation,? he said. ?You never know what situations you can get yourself into or can get yourself out of. You never know, and the harder you work, the better you?re going to be.
?You?ve just got to always continue to work hard, and hopefully success comes one day.?
Reflecting on Tabor?s history-making season in which the Bluejays were 51-13 overall and ranked sixth in the NAIA Baseball Coaches? Postseason Top 25 poll, Webb said:
?At the beginning, I didn?t really know, honestly, how good we really were until we started playing teams and really just dominating everyone. I feel like we were just overmatched for everyone. No one was really going to beat us.
?Honestly, I thought we were going to go undefeated the whole season, but some of the games, we just kind of made some mental errors that cost us a couple runs and we lost.?
Webb spoke well of the team?s solidarity
?The whole entire season, our team was a team,? he said. ?Everyone got along. Everyone could talk to each other.
?If something went wrong or someone did something, everyone fixed it together. It was really a team effort.?
Webb said he learned many things from head coach Mark Standiford during his time at Tabor.
?I think just perseverance (and) putting the best effort you possibly can into what you?re doing,? he said. ?Making sure that you?re always staying healthy, that you?re always doing the right things, that you?re pushing yourself to the next level, and that?s what I did.
?I pushed myself to where I got to the next level and now I?m here, and now I?ve got to push myself to another level to be the best I possibly can.
?He taught me a lot. What he did as a coach, and how he went along with his business, just made me a better player.?