Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish involved in glove affair

Hall of Fame wants Weber's mitt, but Red Sox superstar is using it

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Jon Weber is a lot of things. The 33-year-old Californian, who plays left field for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, has been called a terrific teammate and outstanding worker throughout his grinding, 12-year career in the minors.

His glove, however, lays claim to a much more illustrious past. In fact, Weber's glove is wanted by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

According to a 2010 story by the New York Times, when Weber was at the Tampa Bay Rays training camp in the spring of 2009, then-Rays outfielder Carl Crawford, who signed a seven-year, $142-million contract with the Boston Red Sox last year, took a particular liking to Weber's unorthodox glove.

Weber plays with a glove that is 12.75 inches long, undersized compared to the standard 13.5 inch outfielder's mitt. Crawford misplaced his glove during an exhibition game one day and needed a replacement in a hurry. "He was walking around camp asking, 'Who's a lefty? Weber? You're a lefty. Let me borrow that glove,' " Weber explained with a laugh.

"So I gave it to him. He put his hand in it and just said 'that feels nice. You have to let me use this.' "

For the rest of camp, Weber and Crawford switched off gloves like two kids playing sandlot league. "Here I was, making $50 or $60 thousand a year, and I'm switching off my glove with a millionaire," he said. "Something didn't add up."

When Weber was sent to Tampa Bay's Triple A affiliate in Durham, N.C., Crawford, predictably, asked to keep the glove.

"I got sent to Durham, and I got an hour-and-a-half to make my flight," Weber recounted. "As I'm leaving, Crawford goes, 'Web, let me have that glove.' I had two more, so I said 'go ahead.' And then, well, my glove won the MVP in the all-star game."

Well, not exactly... but Crawford was named MVP of the 2009 MLB All-Star Game after making an incredible diving catch to prevent a home run by National Leaguer Brad Hawpe.

Of course, he was wearing the glove.

"The Hall of Fame asked Crawford for the hat and the glove," Weber said. "But Crawford told them, 'Look, it's not my glove to give away. It's Jon Weber's.'"

Though Crawford never submitted the glove to the Hall, he hasn't given it back to Weber either.

"He's still using it right now. Today."

Weber has extras, but he certainly wants his glove back one day. While his dream of playing in the Majors has not quite come to fruition -- like his glove's -- Weber's attitude in regards to playing in the American Association, a version of baseball purgatory, is inspiring.

"I'm a baseball player. It's what I love to do," he explained. "So, yeah, this may be a minor bump in the road in terms of pay, but if I came out here and didn't give it my all, that wouldn't be fair to the team, it wouldn't be fair to my family, and it wouldn't be fair to me."

So far, Weber has been giving it his all and a bit more for the Fish.

Weber has only played 35 games for Winnipeg this season, but the outfielder/DH is currently hitting .307, fourth best on the Goldeyes. He's third in RBIs with 42 and has already hit nine homers since being signed to Winnipeg June 14, good for second on the squad. Justin Bass, who leads the Fish with 12 dingers, has played 66 games -- almost twice as many as Weber.

"Look at me. I'm 5-foot-8 and almost 200 pounds, but I'll tell you what, you ask any person who knows me about Jon Weber, and they know that I play the game as hard as I possibly can," he said.

Evidently so. The question is, how was a veteran with this much talent unemployed in June and how did the Goldeyes get so lucky to grab him?

"Friendships," Weber explained. "I've always known (Goldeyes manager) Rick Forney and he's always liked the way I played the game. I was going to go to Mexico this summer, but, to make a long story short, it fell through in more ways than one.

"I've always kept in contact with Rick because he listens to my recommendations about certain players and whatnot that he's looking at. I'm certainly not trying to brag, but it can be difficult to find a veteran who can play all three outfield positions, especially in the middle of the season. Anyway, when Rick called, I came running."

When Weber got to Shaw Park and suited up with the Fish, the running continued, but this time it was around the bases. Weber recorded 11 RBIs in his first nine games, including a two-homer, five-RBI performance in a 9-5 win over the Lincoln Saltdogs on June 24.

From there, he hasn't looked back. Weber leads the Fish with a .371 batting average at home and in all likelihood will be Winnipeg's home-run king by season's end.

 

robby.frankel@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2011 C5

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