March 22, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Jonah Bride and Braden Webb are former high school teammates from Owasso, Okla., who had something to prove as they took different routes in the last year, but both still ended up at South Carolina to play baseball. While the duo have enjoyed their reunion in Columbia following a year apart after high school, they share the goal of trying to play close to home in late June if they can help the Gamecocks return to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
“I always dreamed of playing baseball at big school like this,” Bride said. “Growing up, I watched South Carolina win it all in 2010 and 2011. It was great to see. Last year I would watch games on TV and the atmosphere here was great, and it just seemed so different than all the others.”
“Growing up, ever since I was little, I watched them compete at the national championship level,” Webb said. “That was something amazing to see. They worked hard and played hard. That was something I just saw myself wanting to do. I worked hard all my life, so it was my top choice.”
Bride, an infielder, and Webb, a pitcher, earned numerous accolades while helping Owasso High School post a 36-0 record as juniors on the way to a state championship. After graduating high school in 2014, it took a year before either would arrive on the Columbia campus. Bride, a sophomore, transferred to South Carolina after earning NJCAA All-America honors from Neosho Community College in Kansas.
“I had mid-major schools recruiting me when I was in high school, but I really wanted to go to a bigger school,” Bride said. “I thought that if I went to junior college, I could have a big year and have chance to come to a program like this. That’s how it worked out.
“It helped me learn that when you get to college you have to get a lot of the work in yourself. Coaches work with you, but you have to do a lot on your own too.”
Webb had committed to South Carolina during his junior year of high school, but he suffered an arm injury during his senior year in the spring of 2014 and had to have Tommy John surgery performed. He took a year off and trained in Maryland with a former pitching coach, and was inspired to play again when the Gamecock baseball staff let him know they still had a place waiting for him at South Carolina.
“It made me feel good,” Webb said. “It was definitely a hard time for me, but that was an uplifting moment in my life when Coach (Chad) Holbrook told me he was going to honor my scholarship. When the injury happened, I called Coach Holbrook, and talked to him about the whole process. I told him I wanted to go train in Maryland, and he was good with it so I wouldn’t have to redshirt and could just come in as a true freshman.”
I felt like I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else that I could pitch in the SEC.
Last spring, Webb was a 38th round pick of the Cleveland Indians in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, but he still chose to come South Carolina.
“I just trained for the draft, and when it rolled around, I did a lot of praying.” Webb said. “So I turned that (offer) down to come to school because I felt like I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else that I could pitch in the SEC, and that I’m not down and out from the game of baseball.
“The first day of practice here was pretty emotional for me, coming off Tommy John Surgery. I was just ready to get back out there. Putting on the ‘SC’ logo every day and coming out here and practicing with the best of the best players in the country; it was an amazing feeling.”
Around the same time, the Oklahomans learned there was a chance they could both be wearing the Garnet and Black as Bride was being recruited by the Gamecocks while he was putting up great numbers at Neosho.
“(Assistant) Coach (Sammy Esposito) Espo talked with Braden about me since we’re both form Owasso, and then it all worked out,” Bride said. “I moved to Oklahoma when I was eight years old and I met Braden then. He was on my first baseball team there, and we lived in the same neighborhood at first. So growing up, we were always playing together and hanging out.”
“When Coach Espo asked me about him, it was awesome,” Webb added. “Just getting to talk about my best friend coming out here and play with me again was great.”
Having spent so much time together growing up, Bride and Webb may as well be brothers, and like any siblings, they have a lot in common and plenty of differences.
“We’re definitely like brothers,” Webb said. “We fight and argue at times, and then we’re the best of friends. It’s the best relationship.”
“He thinks I’m a jokester,” Bride said. “I’m sure he’ll tell you I’m a jokester.”
“He also likes to talk a lot of trash, but it’s all in good fun,” Webb added. “He cares a lot about his family, and he always calls home to talk to his little sister. That’s important to him.”
When he’s not on the mound, Webb dabbles in music.
“He loves music” Bride said. “He loves singing and dancing. He likes getting a little crazy. He’s pretty good. He’ll just start to free style rap. Sometimes we have to force him to get started, but once he gets going, he’s really good.”
“I have a couple songs out on SoundCloud,” Webb said. “I like to do Christian rap, because I’m really big into my faith. Actually, my walk out song is one of my rap songs. It’s called ‘Beast mode.’ That’s just something I really enjoy doing. I’m just trying to get more out there for God’s name, not for my own.”
They cheer for each other throughout the game, and Webb enjoys taunting Bride with the nickname ‘Sloth,’ which was given to him by one of their high school coaches.
“To this day, I still call him that,” Webb laughed. “When he’s hitting, you’ll see me in the dugout holding up three fingers; the sloth fingers.”
Although they’re in a new place, it’s like old times for the Owasso boys.
“Getting to play again together here is awesome,” Bride said. “We’ve played together our whole lives. I know what he is going to do, and he knows what I can do. So we cheer each other on, and support each other in everything we do.”
Bride and Webb have a common goal of helping South Carolina get back to where they first saw the Gamecocks play – in the College World Series.
“I want for us to make it back to Omaha,” Webb said. “That would be incredible if we could help the team get back there. I do feel like that if we do get back to Omaha, you’ll see a lot of Oklahoma people in Nebraska. You’ll see a lot more of Owasso.”
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