HILLSBORO, Kan. — Former Tabor College baseball player Jacob Webb has realized his dream: pitching in the major leagues. Webb was called up to the Atlanta Braves in April, becoming the first Tabor pitcher to make a Major League Baseball roster.
Webb came to Tabor in 2010 after one semester at Riverside (Calif.) Community College. The Riverside native pitched for head coach Mark Standiford for two seasons.
“His story is such a great story,” Standiford said. “He came here as a freshman. He paid his own plane ticket to get here. He tried out, and when we saw him we said we have to have this kid.
“He worked hard, especially in the off-season. He jumped his velocity up to 91-92 miles per hour. When that happened the pro scouts started coming around.”
During his freshman campaign in 2013, Webb went 4-4 with an earned-run average of 1.47. Over 55 innings, he showed great control, striking out 50 batters and walking 18. He allowed only one home run his freshman year.
His sophomore year, Webb continued to throw well. The right-hander completed the season with a record of 11-4 and an ERA of 1.88. Once again, strikeouts were high (129) while walking few batters (27). He pitched 10 complete games that year.
Webb was selected by the Braves in the 18th round of the 2014 draft. In 2016 he made 14 appearances between rookie- level Danville, Va., and Single-A Rome, Ga. In that span, Webb had a combined ERA of 4.85, and struck out 31 batters in 13 innings. His 21.5 strikeouts per nine innings were most among Atlanta minor league pitchers.
In 2017, he went 5-2 with a 2.07 ERA between High-A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. During the 2018 season, Webb was 3-4 with a 3.14 ERA while recording 18 saves over 51 games between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. He was the leader among Atlanta farmhands with 18 saves and ranked third in the system by allowing just six hits per nine innings pitched.
Webb made his major league debut April 16. As of Aug. 13, he had appeared in 36 games, recording four wins, two saves and 28 strikeouts in more than 32 innings pitched, with an ERA of 1.39.
Webb has the utmost respect for his Tabor coach.
“Coach Standiford honestly let me be myself while I attended Tabor College,” he said. “He didn’t try to force things on me or change who I was, but he guided me when there were ups and downs and showed me what it takes to play baseball at a competitive level.”
Standiford said Webb’s work ethic is a big reason he is in the majors.
“He had a little setback when he had Tommy John surgery, but he didn’t give up. I talked to him a few times, and he said he was working hard and now that hard work has paid off.”
Most memorable years
Having a former player on a major-league roster means a lot for Tabor.
“It’s huge,” Standiford said. “We preach that every player should have that goal. It’s a goal that’s not attainable for everybody, but it can happen, and now we aren’t just saying it because it has actually happened.
“It’s very big for us and it’s very big for our recruits. If you work hard, you might not be set to be drafted now, but you can be, and that’s what happened with Jacob.”
The Braves reliever reflected on his biggest college highlight, when Tabor went to the NAIA World Series for the first time in school history.
“I think that set the tone for how much our team really wanted to win and how much chemistry we had when I was there,” he said. “It was one of the best teams I’ve ever played on.”
He’s also thankful for his time at Tabor and the impact it had in his life.
“I’m thankful for all my teammates, coaches and staff at the school for helping me through my years at Tabor and making them some of the most memorable years of my life,” Webb said.