Daniel Webb 'dedicating everything' to his mother

Daniel Webb 'dedicating everything' to his mother
July 3, 2014, 9:45 am
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Daniel Webb's mother, Sandra, taught him how to catch and throw a ball from the time he was young.

For White Sox pitcher Daniel Webb, this should be the greatest baseball season of his life.

He made the Chicago White Sox roster out of spring training as a rookie. He collected his first major league victory on April 15 against the defending champion Boston Red Sox. He struck out Derek Jeter in his final at-bat at U.S. Cellular Field on May 23 and picked up the victory over the New York Yankees.

"That's something I'll never forget," Webb says about retiring the Yankees legend.

But despite all the big moments, it hasn't felt completely right.

Someone has been missing.

The phone call came on February 27. Webb was in the White Sox spring training clubhouse in Glendale, Arizona. Daniel's dad was desperately trying to reach him. Tragedy struck that morning in Webb's home in Paducah, Kentucky.

"[White Sox general manager] Rick Hahn came up to me and said, ‘You have a family friend outside,’" Webb explained. "I go out and it's my old agent who's actually from my hometown. It's the only number my dad had. He told me I needed to call home. I didn't know what was going on. So I called my dad. He said, 'It's your mother.' He told me what happened. I was speechless."

Webb's mother, Sandra, suffered a heart attack in her sleep that morning. She passed away at the age of 54.

Just like that, she was gone.

Normally it's fathers and sons who share a bond with the game of baseball. The deep connection you feel playing catch with the man who gave you life is powerful beyond words. It stays with you forever.

Daniel felt that with his mom.

"She actually is the one who taught me how to catch and throw when I was real young without a glove. She figured that the best way to teach me to catch with a glove was to be able to catch without one," he says about Sandra, who wasn't very athletic, but took the time to throw with her son, until....

"I started to get a little bit older and she's like, 'I'm not playing catch with you anymore. You're throwing too hard.'"

After learning about his mom's passing, Webb left spring training that day and flew back home to Peducah.

"It was tough on both parts," he says. "Going home for a loss like that, and here I am at my first big league camp, not sure what's going to happen."

Webb spent a week at home with his father and three sisters. They're a tight-knit group who together coped with the sudden loss of a woman who meant everything to them. She and Daniel's father, Champ, were married for 30 years.

How do you fill the void? How do you go on?

They're questions we ask ourselves after we lose such precious loved ones.

The world continued to spin. The White Sox continued to train. Jobs were on the line. But Webb was a thousand miles away physically, a million miles away emotionally.

How could he get back on the mound?

Webb's father gave him the advice he needed.

"He said, 'You need to go back. That's what she would want. You need to get back as soon as you can and go back to work,'" Webb says. "I decided to finish spring strong and I did. Now I'm here and it's great. I'm kind of dedicating everything this season to my mom."

In 27 games, Webb is 4-2 with a 3.38 ERA. There’s been talk of him one day becoming the White Sox closer.

Sandra Webb might not be in the seats watching him pitch, but just like the bond mother and son developed years ago playing catch outside, that link they forged has not been broken.

"I talk to her everyday. Just little conversations of prayer before stretch. When I've really found my time to talk to her is during every national anthem. I'll bow my head and have a little conversation with her. Baseball is my sanctuary. I come to the ballpark. That's where I find peace and everything's good."

To help with the grieving process, Daniel's dad and three sisters have made several trips from Kentucky to Chicago to watch him pitch. But despite being together, there's still that considerable void.

"Sometimes we'll cry about it," Webb says. "The memories of my mom at a ballgame getting mad about a certain call. We have fun with it. It's been tough, but we're getting over it."

Some days are better than others. Daniel says that Mother's Day was particularly difficult. He didn't pitch that day, but did the following evening. It was one of his worst games of the season. Webb gave up two runs and four walks in one inning in a 5-4 loss to the A's.

Since then, the White Sox reliever has had his share of peaks and valleys. After starting the season 4-0, he lost two games in back-to-back appearances on the last road trip in Minnesota and Baltimore. Webb could have let the roar of the home crowd affect him, but he can hear a much louder voice inside him.

Mom is there. She's helping him get through the hard times.

"She lets me know that she's with me and no matter how bad of a game or how good of a game I have, she's there," Webb says. "She was always supportive, and everyone always tells me how proud she was of me. And she told me, too. I know she's still with us and with me and my family and everyone else. I know she's happy right now."