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Baseball

Surprise slice of history

Oakland goes against the norm by drafting a high school player, CCC right-hander Ryan Webb.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published June 8, 2004

Ryan Webb was picked in Monday's major league baseball draft at the end of the fourth round, long after the marquee names had gone, well after the excitement of the first round had faded.

But how many of those picked before Webb made history?

When the Clearwater Central Catholic standout's computer screen flashed that he had been picked by Oakland with the 127th pick, Webb had himself a nice story to tell the kids.

"They said I was making history - I was the first high school player picked in the first rounds in the Moneyball era," Webb said. "They said it was pretty big news."

Moneyball, a best-selling book written about Oakland general manager Billy Beane's preference for drafting college players, has been invoked hundreds of times leading up to the draft.

True to form, the A's selected seven college players in the first three rounds before taking Webb, a 6-foot-6 right-hander.

In Webb, the A's get a potential-laden pitcher with pedigree (dad Hank pitched in the major leagues). Physically, he has room to fill out his tall frame, and mentally he is mature and intelligent with an advanced pitcher's mind.

His fastball has touched 90 mph, his curve is above average and his slider - more of a slurve, he says - was a killer out pitch this season, when he went 10-0 for the Marauders with a 0.49 ERA and 110 strikeouts.

Still, Oakland's choice was a shocker to the Webb family.

Hank Webb, himself a former 10th-round draft pick of the New York Mets in 1968, said he had talked to 27 major-league teams about his son before the draft.

"Oakland wasn't one of them," he said.

Ryan Webb thought the Milwaukee Brewers or Montreal Expos were getting set to choose him. Milwaukee had expressed interest in grabbing Webb with its first pick of the fifth round, but after taking pitchers with its previous four picks, Webb said he grew unsure of its interest.

"I was bummed out," he said.

But the phone started ringing near the end of the fourth round.

"Ringing off the hook," Webb said. "I was pressing flash, going back and fourth and trying to work out deals. It got busy."

Montreal wanted to know what it would take to sign Webb, who has a Division I scholarship to Wake Forest, but before he could dream up a figure, the Expos changed their mind.

"Oh, never mind," the Expos scout said. "You've just been picked."

Webb quickly looked over to his computer screen and saw his name.

"I thought, "Wow,' " Webb said. "I don't even remember them being that hot on me."

With the recent resignation of Wake Forest coach George Greer, he may be more prone to sign than ever. Webb said he was expecting to meet with Oakland by the end of the week.

[Last modified June 8, 2004, 01:15:11]


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