Hotard: Following his dream led Gavin Webster back to baseball at Southern

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Southern center fielder Gavin Webster, right, high-fives shortstop Jeremy Lopez after they both scored against Texas Southern at Lee-Hines Field on Sunday, March 10, 2013.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Southern center fielder Gavin Webster, right, high-fives shortstop Jeremy Lopez after they both scored against Texas Southern at Lee-Hines Field on Sunday, March 10, 2013.

No matter what he accomplishes on a baseball diamond, Southern outfielder Gavin Webster may have a hard time making Louisiana sports fans forget the potential he showed on the football field.

Webster earned Louisiana’s Mr. Football award as a Lutcher High senior in 2009, one season after quarterbacking the Bulldogs to the Class 3A title.

Given the state’s reputation for producing five-star football talent, being named the top player in Louisiana would seem like a guarantee of future stardom.

But Webster, a sophomore on the Southern baseball team, has given up the sport so many Louisianians love in favor of the one he always loved more.

“I know a lot of people are wondering why I’m playing baseball,” he said. “But football wasn’t my passion.”

Webster is a cousin of former big leaguer Lenny Webster and began playing baseball when he was just knee-high. Not until the sixth grade, when he joined the Gramercy Tigers, did he play organized football for the first time.

“All my friends were doing it,” he said.

The next thing he knew, Webster was the quarterback at Lutcher and making major headlines.

He signed in 2010 to play football and baseball at Southeastern Louisiana but quit the football team after his first season. It wasn’t a popular decision among his peers on the SLU campus, Webster said.

Seeking a fresh start and a chance to focus on baseball, he transferred to LSU-Eunice the following semester and spent one season as a backup outfielder for the NJCAA Division II powerhouse.

The move to Southern, he hoped, would result in more playing time. But he first had to sit out a full season to satisfy NCAA rules regarding players who transfer from a four-year school to a two-year school and back to another four-year school.

From the moment he arrived, Webster was committed to one sport alone.

“It’s very difficult in a football-crazy state, for Mr. Football in Louisiana to say he’s giving it up,” Southern coach Roger Cador said. “He made a tough decision. You can imagine how many people must have been in his ear.”

Webster lacked consistency in batting .242 during the regular season, but Cador’s starting center fielder wowed coaches, teammates and fans with his immense power.

He hit a ball against Prairie View over the scoreboard in right field at Lee-Hines Field. A few nights later, he put a pitch against Northwestern State over the 24-foot-high center-field wall 395 feet from home plate.

His five homers lead the team.

“His swing is so easy and effortless, the ball just jumps off his bat,” Southern senior Kevin Williams said.

Webster said his dream is to play in the big leagues.

It’s the same dream he has had since he first started swinging a bat — the same dream he had when he accepted an award as the best football player in a football-crazy state.