Former Ehret two-sport star Webster Garrison made a career of professional baseball
At the end of his spectacular high school athletic career in 1983, Webster Garrison was faced with the difficult decision of whether to play baseball in college or to sign with a professional baseball team. His decision was complicated by the fact he was a second-round draft selection in the MLB draft, which ultimately earned him a significant bonus.
Garrison’s senior season (1982-83) at John Ehret High School in Marrero was one of the best in the metro New Orleans area. His athleticism manifested itself as the Patriots’ quarterback who guided the team to an unbeaten season and got them as far as the semifinal round in the state football playoffs. His performance was recognized when he was named 1982 All-State quarterback and Offensive Player of the Year.
In baseball he pitched and played shortstop, becoming an All-District performer for the second year and earning district MVP honors. He was also an All-Metro baseball team selection.
Although he had been heavily scouted by several major-league teams, Garrison decided to accept a grant-in-aid scholarship to play baseball at UNO before the major-league draft occurred in June. But then the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the second round of the 1983 MLB draft.
He was the 37th overall pick in the entire draft. Baseball scouts saw him as a young, raw talent with a lot of potential. To put his selection into perspective, Roger Clemens, who became one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball, was the 19th overall pick of Boston. Wally Joyner, Charlie Hayes, and Ronnie Gant were eventual major-league all-stars selected in the third and fourth rounds behind Webster.
Initial discussions with the Blue Jays didn’t change his mind about signing. He enrolled at UNO and was ready to start classes, when the Blue Jays approached him at the last minute and offered him a $100, 000 signing bonus. Garrison rejected the offer because he wanted to play at UNO and get an education first. But Toronto was intent on getting him under contract before attending classes, or otherwise they would have lost their rights to him. The Blue Jays countered with a $150,000 offer, which Garrison felt he couldn’t turn down. His bonus turned out to be higher than any of the draft’s first round picks.
The Blue Jays were patient with him in his early professional years, as he struggled with hitting. But after getting a few seasons under his belt, Garrison was starting to realize the potential that major-league scouts saw in him coming out of high school. He made the Southern League All-Star team in 1987, while playing for Double-A Knoxville. He had another good season in 1988, when he stole 42 bases with Knoxville, and he repeated as an All-Star selection.
By 1989 at age 23, Webster appeared to be on track to get to the big leagues, as he was promoted to Syracuse at the Triple-A Level for the first time and played in 50 games with them.
However, the Blue Jays’ parent club already had good-hitting, slick fielding shortstop Tony Fernandez who made his first of five major-league all-star teams in 1986. Fernandez, who was only three years older than Garrison, became entrenched as their future shortstop. After Garrison had an injury-plagued season in 1990, the Blue Jays granted him free agency.
Garrison inked a contract with the Oakland A’s organization for the 1991 season. He had his best year to that point in his career in 1993, batting .303 with seven home runs and 73 RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma. But he was again granted free agency by the A’s after the season.
Garrison then signed with the Colorado Rockies organization, where he improved his play during the next two seasons, with .302-13-68 and .293-12-77 offensive statistics for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 1994 and 1995. He was a member of the Pacific Coast League championship team in 1995. However, by that time Garrison was 29 years old and considered past his prime as a major league prospect. He was granted free agency and ended up returning to the A’s.
Webster turned in respectable seasons with the A’s organization and finally made his major league debut on August 2, 1996. He appeared in five games with the Oakland A’s, going hitless in 10 plate appearances. It had taken him 13 years and 1,500 games to make the major leagues at age 30.
He finished his professional playing career in 1999, not able to get another shot in the big leagues. In all, he played 16 minor-league seasons. He appeared in 1,796 games, garnering 1,721 hits in 6,426 at-bats, for a .268 batting average. During his career, he hit 101 home runs and 786 RBI and scored 963 runs.
After serving as a player-coach for Double-A Huntsville in 1999, Garrison turned to full-time coaching for the 2000 season. He was promoted to minor-league manager in 2001. In the Oakland A’s organization, he managed for 13 seasons for teams at the Rookie, Single-A, and Double-A levels. The popular manager compiled a 718-723 record as a manager. He also spent several seasons as a minor-league coach.
Webster contracted COVID-19 in March 2020, shortly after arriving at spring training with the A’s in Arizona. He ended up spending over seven months in the hospital battling life-threatening complications from the coronavirus. He has not been able yet to resume his baseball career.
While Webster’s playing career did not turn out as he and others hoped, he was a model of perseverance by finally reaching the majors at age 30. He became a stabilizing force in the A’s organization, developing young talent in their farm system. Altogether, he spent over 35 years as a player, coach, and manager.
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New Orleans baseball historian
Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains TheTenthInning.com website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.