February 26, 2013
Webster making most of opportunity
Cody Webster's original thought was to try to make Purdue's baseball team as a corner outfielder.
He had excelled at the position in high school - granted, that was three years ago - and has good speed, as the punter has shown at times on the football field.
Hitting at the Big Ten level, however, proved to be a bit more challenging. But Webster, a 6-foot-1 junior, can pitch as well, and it's there that the left-hander hopes to make a mark on the Boilermakers this spring.
"Not playing the game for three years, it's a little bit tough to see live pitching and try to hit mid-to-high-80s and be consistent," Coach Doug Schreiber said. "But he has arm strength. He's a mid-80s guy and left-handed and that's something we just don't have a lot of."
Regardless of position, Webster's happy to have made Purdue's 35-man roster; he'd been trying for a couple years, although the football and baseball programs hadn't been able to work out the details.
"It's definitely something that I always wanted to do," Webster said. "I had the mindset to play two (sports), the chance is finally here and Purdue is giving me the opportunity. I'd be ashamed if I looked back and didn't take the opportunity."
Now, Webster's challenge is to make a mark. Through Purdue's first eight games, he's yet to get out of the bullpen, although he was part of the Boilermakers' travel roster that went to Starkville for a tournament last weekend.
But simply shaking off the rust might be Webster's biggest hindrance. Webster last played baseball as a senior at Central Dauphin East High School in Harrisburg, Pa. - where his pitching coach was former Boilermaker right-hander Allan Donato - before coming to Purdue on a football scholarship. He's a three-year starting punter for the Boilers, and last season was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist.
Although he didn't get in during the weekend baseball series, Webster got in some work out in the bullpen. He throws a fastball in the mid-80s, with a changeup and a curve, but having those pitches become consistently reliable might take some time.
"He's going to have to prove himself somewhat, but he keeps getting better and better each week," Schreiber said. "I don't know where that's going to plateau off, but we're going to keep riding him a little bit and see what he can give us.
"We know Cody's makeup and intangibles are pretty high on the chart. He's a competitor."
In an effort to become a contributor, Webster's putting in some long days. He's going through 6 a.m. workouts with the football team on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, then is with baseball during its evening practices that often last past 8 p.m.
"That's something that I knew going into playing two sports," Webster said before a baseball practice last week. "But (the hours) are a lot easier when you enjoy it."
Webster will likely have to juggle an even busier schedule soon, with spring practice beginning next month. But he and coaches Darrell Hazell and Schreiber have worked out a schedule that should maximize his time.
Webster doesn't anticipate missing any of spring ball, although he could leave the football field early at times to go to baseball because Hazell often conducts special teams work in the first portion of practices. But no matter how he splits his time, he won't be able to exceed the 20 hours of organized weekly practice time allowed by the NCAA.
"We talked about a game plan of how we're going to focus on the season," Webster said. "
Both (coaches) are on the same page, so that's really good."
Now, Webster, Purdue's first baseball/football player since Travis Dorsch in 1999 and 2000, is intent on working hard enough to make a mark.
"I didn't try out to just watch," he said. "I could have bought season tickets at the new stadium if I wanted to do that. I think Coach Schreiber understands that and he wouldn't have kept me on the team if he didn't think I could contribute. I'm definitely going to work hard."
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