MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) This year was Robert Westbrook’s first season as Lamar’s baseball coach after spending the past eight years at Newton County. Being the coach of a new program can be a difficult transition but Westbrook shared how seniors Will Swift, Brandrick Thomas and Garrett Webb helped him feel welcome from the start.
(Courtesy: Robert Westbrook)
“This being my first year I needed my seniors to buy in to what I was trying to accomplish and I felt no resistance from them at all," Westbrook said. "They jumped in with both feet and it was real productive to have that senior leadership and for the younger guys to say ‘hey they’re doing it so why can’t we’ which was real beneficial."
Will Swift has been on Lamar’s varsity team for four years. Coach Westbrook described him as a quiet player - sharing that instead of leading with his words he leads by his actions. He played shortstop and also pitched for the Raiders, ending the shortened season with a 2-1 pitching record. Swift was a player Coach Westbrook knew he could always depend on to make the necessary plays come game day.
“He had the ability to make the ‘ESPN play’ but more importantly he made routine plays which is all I ask. He was just consistent and that’s all you can ask for is consistency," Westbrook said. "He never got too high or too low. He just stayed level headed and always did what we needed him to do.”
Despite a shortened senior season, Swift was still able to generate attention from college programs. He plans to sign with Belhaven University this week, an NCAA Division III program that will allow him to stay close to home.
“He does everything right," Westbrook said. "He leads by example and I’m glad that he’s getting a chance to play at the next level at Belhaven so that’s good for him.”
Joining Swift at Belhaven in the fall is Brandrick Thomas who played center fielder for the Raiders. He will be playing both football and baseball for the Blazers. Coach Westbrook described him as the team’s lightning rod due to the energy he provides the team and his natural ability to make big plays.
“He could go make that big play and make it look routine. He was our centerfielder and he would just go, run in the gap or to the wall and make a fabulous catch that would keep us in the game," Westbrook said. He could always stop the other team from having a really big inning.”
Through eight games, Thomas had an on base percentage of .458 and .316 batting average. While he will be busy athletically at the next level as a dual-sport athlete, Thomas is also focused on his education and plans to study criminal justice.
The final senior on Lamar’s baseball team is Garrett Webb. Webb began playing baseball for Sumter Academy before the school closed due to dwindling enrollment. Coach Westbrook recalled his first time meeting Webb.
“When I first got to Lamar he was one of the first kids that came up and introduced himself and was very enjoyable to be around," Westbrook recalled. "I was like ‘this kid is something special’ and is just a good overall kid.”
Webb served as the Raiders' utility player, moving around the diamond depending on the needs of the team that day. Coach Westbrook shared Webb was never a player he had to get on to do something.
“The good thing about him is I never had to pull him aside and say ‘hey man I need this’. It was like he shouldered that responsibility like it was expected of him so that was good," Westbrook said. "I needed that personally and he just made the transition really easy.”
Webb is planning to attend the University of West Alabama to complete a business administration degree before going to banking school.
While his time was brief with all three seniors, Coach Westbrook believes all three have a bright future ahead of them in whatever they chose to do.
“The one thing I’ve always told our kids is hard work doesn’t guarantee anything, all it does is give you a chance. What I’ve seen from these three guys, I feel like hard work is just in their blood," Westbrook said. "Whatever they try to accomplish in life is going to be fine.”