Patience has paid off for Alex Webb.
A year after being selected by the San Diego Padres in the 36th round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, South Surrey pitcher Alex Webb – who returned to school at UBC rather than turn pro – was chosen with a much higher pick the second time around, going in the ninth round to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday afternoon.
Webb spent the day – the second day of the MLB draft – at home with his family, following the process online while waiting for the phone to ring. And while waiting for his name to be called was easier this year after having gone through the draft-day experience in 2015, he admits it was still something of a nerve-wracking endeavour.
“It was a little bit easier after last year, but I was definitely getting a little nervous as the rounds were creeping on there,” he told Peace Arch News Friday, less than an hour after being selected.
“I’d been getting calls from people throughout the day, and every time that phone ran, you get a little bit of a shock in case it’s a team. And you never know what they’re going to say, but you just hope the person on the line is from a team they say they’ve just picked you,” Webb said.
“The ninth round is exactly where I thought I would go, honestly. It worked out really well.”
Webb followed the proceedings with his mother, Darlene, while keeping his dad – who was at work – in the loop as the day progressed.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, to be honest,” Darlene said in a UBC Thunderbirds news release. “But I’m super proud of Alex. It’s been a long road and I’m very grateful and thankful to everyone who helped him along the way.”
When the call from the Reds finally came – one of the team’s Canadian scouts made the call – Webb said after a few pleasantries, they “got right down to business” and told him to pack for his first minor-league assignment in Montana.
He left Sunday for Billings, where he will suit up for the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League.
“It’s a real quick turnaround, that’s for sure. Things happen fast,” Webb said.
After a strong senior season with UBC, Webb garnered serious interest from a large number of teams, which made trying to predict his professional landing spot all the more difficult.
“Definitely had a lot more interest than last year,” he said, adding that he heard from 29 of 30 MLB teams during the season.
“I had no idea who was going to pick me, and I actually hadn’t heard from the Reds since February until today. You just never know what’s going to happe, but I’m really happy and I’ve got no complaints.”
Scouts’ interest in the White Rock Tritons product comes as no surprise, considering the season he had at UBC.
The six-foot-three right-hander – a graduate of Semiahmoo Secondary – finished the season with a 10-1 win-loss record, an earned-run average of just 1.38, and 115 strikeouts in 104.1 innings.
The gaudy statistics were a big improvement over his junior season with the Thunderbirds.
“I’m definitely happy with my decision to go back to UBC (after last year’s draft),” Webb said. “I’m way more ready, way more prepared (for pro ball) this year than I was last time.
“I’ve improved most of my pitches. I’ve got a bit more velocity on my fastball, I’ve tightened up my slider and my control has improved as well. I think, combined with just having more confidence on the mound, it led me to have a really, really good year this year at UBC.”
The extra year at the Point Grey campus also allowed Webb, an electrical engineering student, to get that much closer to achieving his degree. He still has a year’s worth of classes left, and said he will definitely go back and finish his coursework in the future.
Webb was the second UBC Thunderbird to hear his name called Friday, as fellow pitcher Curtis Taylor was selected in the fourth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The teammates were also roommates this past year, and Webb said the both of them getting picked on the same day was a special moment.
“It’s awesome. We’ve gone through this whole year together knowing that our names would be called at some point,” he said,
“We basically went through every moment of this process together… He did really well for himself and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Webb wasn’t the only Semiahmoo Peninsula player to hear his name called by a major-league team last week.
On Saturday, White Rock resident – and former Triton and Langley Blaze pitcher – Brayden Bouchey was drafted in the 33rd round by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Bouchey pitched last season at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and he can still return for his senior year if he chooses not to sign with Toronto.
The six-foot-six pitcher – a graduate of Elgin Park Secondary – started 13 games for ULM this past season, finishing with a 5-3 win-loss record, striking out 72 batters in 70 innings of work.
“What a special day for Brayden and the program,” said ULM head coach Bruce Peddie. “He has worked his tail off with Coach [Chris] Smith and developed into one of the best pitchers in the Sun Belt (Conference).”
Bouchey was named Sun Belt Conference pitcher-of-the-week on two different occasions this season.
He finished third in the league in strikeouts, and led his team in most pitching categories. The school’s athletic-department referred to him at the team’s “ace” pitcher in a news release announcing his draft position.
In total, 25 Canadians, including seven from B.C., were selected by MLB teams in the draft.