Brothers Craig, Carey and Casey Webster meet on different sides of the baseball diamond
Last week's baseball game between the Woodburn Bulldogs and Gladstone Gladiators looked like a relatively routine early-season contest between two non-conference opponents, but under the surface it was so much more.
It was the continuation of the same game that has been played between family members for nearly 50 years.
On one side was Woodburn coach Craig Webster. On the other was his youngest brother Casey Webster, head coach of the Gladiators. And between them was Carey Webster, one of their middle brothers who acted as home plate umpire in the Gladiators' 7-6 win in extra innings over the Bulldogs.
"There were five of us," Craig said.
And they all played baseball.
Craig was the oldest, followed by twins Cris and Carey, then Clark and finally Casey. Together, summers in late '60s and '70s Gladstone were always spent at the ball park.
"I played with my guys, Cris and Carey played together and Clark and Casey played together, so there were three summer games all the time," Craig said. "I always remember eating hamburgers and hot dogs at 10 o'clock at night."
When sanctioned games weren't going on, the five brothers were already half a baseball team and simply had to wrangle their friends to get a pickup game going.
"All the boys had friends, so we always had games," Craig said. "We were two blocks from the park, so we were always there in the summer doing stuff."
"In the lot, down by the corner," Carey added, reminiscing with his older brother.
Sports were big in the Webster house, and the quintet was all athletes. Clark and Casey played football. They all played basketball and baseball.
"I was fortunate to have my dad coach me a little bit, so sports was always just really big," Craig said. "We've always been a sports family."
Out of the entire Webster clan, Casey and Clark were the best, each of them garnering All-State honors at Gladstone High School. Eight years Craig's junior, Casey went on to be an All-American at Western Oregon University and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 24th round of the 1985 draft. He worked his way up the ranks as a third baseman, playing for a slew of minor league teams such as Batavia, Waterloo, Kinston and Williamsport before eventually making it to Cleveland's big league camp in 1990.
Unfortunately, lingering hip injuries cut his career short, but it was an impressive run for an overweight kid who was affectionately called "Buddha" and "Orange Face" in his youth.
"Growing up he was a short fat kid," Craig said. "He had rolls. None of us are built that way, but he was."
But somewhere between his sophomore and junior year of high school, he started lifting weights and running seven days a week. Before long, he was benching 350 pounds and launching home runs into the parking lot.
"I've never seen a kid hit the ball as hard as he did," Carey said. "He was big. He launched one over the West Linn stadium one time."
"It's pretty amazing what he did as a young fella," Craig said. "He is really a motivated person as far as what he accomplished."
When Casey's baseball career ended in 1990, he returned to Gladstone as a teacher and coach of the baseball team, where he's been ever since. His brother Clark joined him as coach of the Gladiators' freshman team for 10 years and took over the varsity program for a year in 2013 when Casey took a year off.
Meanwhile, Craig has been busy coaching at the high school level in some capacity for nearly 30 years, compiling more than 420 career victories to become one of the winningest high school baseball coaches in Oregon history.
Craig took over the Woodburn program in 2016, and the two brothers have coached against each other in each of the past two seasons, with the Bulldogs taking a 4-3 victory over the Gladiators last year.
"We were up 3-0 in the last inning and gave up four runs," Casey said. "When he was at Milwaukie, we played a few times (too). Other than that, it hasn't been too much."
A member of the Salem Baseball Umpires Association and former president of the Woodburn Junior Baseball Organization, Carey learned that his oldest and youngest brother would be going head-to-head in the spring, and he wanted in.
"The OSAA does not allow me to do games for relatives or family. That's a rule they've got, but since I've got a brother on each side, they didn't care," Carey said. "I thought it would be fun, because it'll probably never happen again."
John Whittemore, commissioner of the SBUA, first made sure it wouldn't violate the organization's conflict of interest policy before signing off. Once it appeared Carey was in the clear, Whittemore gave him the go-ahead for the rare opportunity.
"I've never heard of this happening in my 10 years of assigning and I've never heard about it happening anywhere else ever," Whittemore said. "I know in talking with Carey this was really special for him to get this opportunity and I'm glad we were all able to make it work out."
When the three brothers met at home plate for the pre-game formalities, it was all smiles. During the game, it was mostly civil. Mostly.
"He did a nice job," Casey said of Carey's work behind the plate. "I questioned a few of his calls, (but) I thought he did a good job."
"He was just complaining about the strike zone," Carey said. "I don't favor everybody. I just go out and try to call the best game I can and see where it rolls."
From his vantage point, Craig thought otherwise. Though as the oldest, he has a bit more liberty to give his younger brothers grief.
"Casey got on his ass, which I think is disrespectful to your older brother," Craig said, laughing.