Demetrius Webb (Indiana) faces a pitch.
Note: The following article appeared on perfectgame.org on July 5.
There are few opportunities when a player moves through the minor league ranks as fast as the Chicago Cubs fourth overall pick of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft, Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber has impressed through 18 games in the minors, with Class A Kane County and Class Short-Season A Boise, hitting for a .446 batting average with eight home runs, 20 RBI and 19 runs scored.
Two of Schwarber’s teammates from Indiana University, Demetrius Webb and Austin Foote, both red-shirted their freshmen years; in doing so both had the opportunity to learn valuable lessons that they are implanting in the PGCBL and the rest of their baseball careers. Both Webb and Foote are current members of the Albany Dutchmen and have both seen playing time so far early in the season.
Thus far, Webb has started in nine games and played in 10 and has four hits, two RBI and is a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.
“It has been a good time so far,” Webb said about how his experience in the PGCBL has been so far this summer. “Playing with guys from other schools and meeting other players from other teams has been pretty cool.
“I just met another catcher from the Utica Brewers and we started talking and he told me how he was from the Bahamas. His story is very interesting on how he got the opportunity to come over to the U.S. to play the game he loves.”
For Foote, he has pitched in five games and started one, posting a 2.53 ERA and is currently second on the team with 15 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings of work.
“This is my first year of playing summer ball, so I didn’t know what to expect, but the experience has been a blast so far,” Foote said. “Having new teammates from all around the country is great, and the level of competition is really good too.”
For Webb, who may soon take the reigns as Indiana’s next catcher, he said watching Schwarber has taught him a lot as a player and to just have fun playing the game.
“Being able to step on the field with him every day was an honor,” Webb said. “He is a very humble and down to earth guy. No matter how good he was, he always wanted to get better and most importantly, he had fun playing.”
What Webb said he learned the most from Schwarber was that hard work always pays off.
“He knew he was leaving after the season,” Webb added. “When we would practice, he would make sure I understood everything so next year I would be prepared.
“I think the most important thing I learned from him was to always work hard. He wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school; he work to get where he is today. Yeah the guy has unbelievable hitting skills, but it’s not like he got that over night. He wanted to be great, so he challenged himself and worked hard to be great.”
And that’s what Webb plans to do in the offseason in preparation for the upcoming college season. He said his main focus this summer is to improve his hitting, since that’s what scouts said he needed to improve.
“Going into my freshman year, I knew my hitting was my weakness. When I was recruited, that’s what all the coaches would tell me, that I’m lacking hitting,” Webb said. “I have always had good defensive skills behind the plate. I am hoping to improve my hitting capability which so far I can see improvement.
“The Albany Dutchmen coaching staff knows how bad I want to improve my hitting, so they are helping me out a lot and trying to get me where I need to be.”
He also plans to get the necessary reps to keep himself in the baseball mindset and not let his play get rusty as he heads back to campus in the fall.
“We play every day basically, so being able to get a lot of reps before going back to school is a plus,” he said. “I didn’t see any playing time last year because they red-shirted me, so coming out here is helping me improve my game and getting my rust out so I can be prepared in the fall.”
Where would a catcher be without a pitcher throwing him the ball? A pitcher and a catcher go together like peanut butter and jelly, and for Foote, continuing getting practice with Webb behind the plate has helped their chemistry.
“It’s been really great to pitch to a catcher I’m already comfortable with,” Foote said. “Meech [Webb] and I were roommates freshman year at school so it works out perfectly that we play for the same summer team. He’s a great player and really likes to control the game behind the plate and neutralizes a lot of my mistakes off the mound.”
Like Webb, Foote said he has also learned a lot about work ethic from watching Schwarber play.
“I learned a lot about work ethic and how to play the game the right way,” Foote said. “To watch him was a great learning experience.
“I think it elevates the play of the team when you have a player like him. You see him playing well and the rest of the team follows.”
This offseason, Foote plans to improve on his mechanics as a pitcher and to attack hitters with all three of his pitches.
“My main goal this summer is to get on the mound and compete to give my team the best chance to win,” he said. “But specifically, I’m focused on attacking the zone with all three of my pitches and to develop a better pick-off move.”
After watching the success of Schwarber their freshmen year at Indiana and seeing the success he’s having in the minors, Foote and Webb will take what they have learned from watching Schwarber and apply it to them.
Webb said even with the recent news of hearing IU’s coaching staff has departed to coach at Arizona State; he will still compete hard and do everything he can to help his team succeed.
“Losing one of the best coaches in college baseball and the guy who built the program is a downfall,” Webb said. “But we [the team] have come together and we are happy for Coach Smith. We know we are capable of still being a top program in the nation. We lost three of our best hitters, our best left-handed pitcher and only losing one pitcher to the draft, I believe our pitching staff is going to be hard to beat.
“Some can say IU baseball will never be the same. IU baseball plays as a team. We know what we have to do next year. Like I said, we are going to be a hard team to beat. No matter who our coach is, we are all going to have the same goal and that is to win and compete at the highest level.”