Thirty years later, Cody Webster is still tuned in to the Little League World Series.
At age 12, he dominated his opponents while pitching Kirkland National Little League to a 5-0 championship win over Taiwan in Williamsport, Pa. He blasted a 280-foot home run during that game and helped knock the Taiwanese off their five-straight-titles perch.
On a recent afternoon while sitting in a room at the Northshore Sports Complex in Woodinville, the 42-year-old Kirkland resident and Bothell American Legion baseball coach checked out the TV screen while players from Curacao and Japan played on the same field he did three decades ago.
“It’s fun to watch this stuff. These kids seem like they’re bigger, stronger, faster nowadays — they’re so polished,” he said. “I’m pretty sure even if I didn’t experience what I experienced, I’d be watching it because it’s a good show.”
Webster was clearly entertained: “Look at how big that kid is — Wow,” he said at one point. “Look how he wears that hat,” he chimed in later.
Following his Little League days, Webster attended Juanita High, where his baseball and football teams won state titles.
During that time frame, he started thinking about coaching baseball, which is what he’s done on the Bothell baseball scene for the last six years. He currently coaches the local American Legion U-19 squad, which mainly features players from Bothell High, along with one from Inglemoor High and another from Cedar Park Christian.
Webster has coached most of the players since they were 11, including his nephew, Kellen, who will be a junior at Bothell High this year. While his teams have experienced up and down years, he often plays them against older teams to prepare them for high-school ball.
When Webster was about 16 or 17 — the same age range as his players now — he started developing a coach’s mindset.
“I started getting interested and started paying attention more to my coaches and how they did stuff and why they did stuff. Kind of looked at the game in that different way,” Webster said. “Obviously when I was 12, I didn’t think that way — I probably thought I was going to play until I was 90.”
Whether he’s on the ball field coaching and running camps, or helping players hone their skills at the Northshore Sports Complex, Webster knows that tons of hard work will go a long way toward a player’s success.
He’s relaxed with the kids, works individually with each player to have them playing at a top level and, most importantly, doesn’t put a lot of pressure on them, he said. Pressure was in abundance during Webster’s baseball days, and he wants to stay far away from that, he added.
“You’ve got to play every day, you’ve got to put a lot of time and effort into it to be good. That’s what we did, that’s how we won the World Series, that’s what I was taught,” Webster said. “We practiced eight, nine hours a day leading up to the tournament. Whatever your ceiling is, you’ll never reach it unless you work your butt off.”
Todd Webster, one of Cody’s three older brothers and Kellen’s dad, feels that Cody’s experience as a successful player translates well into the coaching role. He can relate to his players, both on a personal level and skills-wise, Todd said.
“He recognizes a skill set and he wants the kids to achieve that,” said Todd, noting that as a father, he knows that Kellen is in good hands with Cody smoothly guiding the teenager to a higher level, as well.
Near his desk at the sports complex hangs a large, framed picture of the 1982 Kirkland National team. Webster smiled when he looked at those boys of summer and discussed what that time meant to him.
“The thing that I take from the Little League experience is those guys — a lot of them I’m still good friends with. There’s just a special bond there,” said Webster, noting that the supportive coaches and players’ families were also crucial parts of Kirkland’s success.
Each time Kirkland won, the boys got to play another day. Everyone was still together when the dust on the baseball diamond cleared. Victory was theirs, right up until the last day of the season.
“It was great, we won the World Series,” Webster said. “But it kind of sucked that the summer was over because it was so much fun.”
• Webster and his Kirkland National teammates started the nonprofit Pat Downs Foundation, named after their 1982 head coach who died in 1997. The foundation raises money for young baseball players who can’t afford the costs to play. Information: www.patdownsfoundation.org