By Dallas Bordon
Madison County’s Jake Westbrook has taken the mound for the final time in the big leagues.
That start came in game number 162 of the 2013 season for the St. Louis Cardinals. Not only was it his final start of the season, but it was his final start of a 17-year professional baseball career.
The Cardinals honored Westbrook one final time by giving him the start on that day against the Cubs. As he worked just one inning of scoreless baseball, he departed for a final time and was greeted by his Cardinal teammates with hugs in the dugout, a final farewell as the Cardinals declined his final year of his contract eventually sending him into the free-agent market.
Now, for the first time in his long career, Westbrook will not board a plane for spring training as he has announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. After receiving a few offers while a free agent, he decided that his family life is more important than a return to baseball at this point in his life.
“I decided to shut it down,” said Westbrook. “The few offers I was getting weren’t worth the grind of another year and being away from the family anymore. It’s time to start the next chapter of my life.”
While a Red Raider, Westbrook made his mark on Madison County baseball. He hurled five no-hitters, including one perfect game and wrapped up a senior season with a 9-1 record and a 1.11 earned run average in 63 innings of work, striking out 110 batters.
His accolades as a Red Raider earned him a first round draft pick (21st pick) in the 1996 baseball draft by the Colorado Rockies. At 18 years old, Westbrook started his professional baseball career with the Arizona Rockies, a Rookie league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies in the Arizona League.
Westbrook quickly climbed the ladder of the minor league ranks, including stops in Portland, Asheville, Jupiter, Harrisburg, and Columbus before making his Major League debut on June 17, 2000 with the New York Yankees. Westbrook became a mainstay in the majors in 2001 with Cleveland after being traded to the Indians in a deal that included fellow teammates Zach Day and Ricky Ledee for David Justice.
As a Cleveland Indian, Westbrook was part of the American League All-Star team in 2004. Westbrook was traded for a final time on July 31, 2010 to the St. Louis Cardinals with whom he earned a game six win in the 2011 World Series, a series which St. Louis came back to win.
As a Cardinal, Westbrook hit his first career home run, a grand slam against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 31, 2011 and also went 3 for 3 at the plate with a walk and a stolen base on July 24, 2013. He also recorded his career 100th win while with the Cardinals but on October of 2013, the Cardinals declined their $9.5 million option on Westbrook for the 2014 season, making him a free agent.
Hampered with injuries in the second half of the season, he saw limited action in the final months and was left off the Cardinals post-season roster. Westbrook finished his St. Louis career with a 36-32 record and a 4.27 ERA in three seasons. Jake ends his professional career with a 105-103 record in 315 games, 1747.2 innings pitched, 571 walks, 965 strike outs and an ERA of 4.32.
Westbrook’s high school number (12) was retired by Coach Charlie Griffeth and the Red Raiders in a ceremony at Raider Field with Westbrook throwing out the game’s first pitch on that day several years ago while with the Cleveland Indians.
He is married to Heather (Daniels) Westbrook and they have four children. He is the son of Joan and Cauthen Westbrook.