This may or may not be Valley Baseball League takeover week here at the FBB… it probably is. In any case, I’d be remiss not to attempt to give today’s subject proper attention.
Last week marked the end of an era in my hometown, as our Rebels long time (long, long time) hitting coach, Mo Weber (also known as “The Legend of the Valley”) decided to hang up his spikes.
How can I capture Mo in words? Where do I even start? My talents cannot be sufficient in doing the man justice. At first I thought I might draw some comparison between Mo and some other illustrious baseball personage. No good! Anyone who knows Mo will know that he has no equal. Legends are always without equivalent.
For lack of anything better to do, I’m just going to start at the beginning, from my point of view. Around the age of 11 or 12, I began to attend a lot of Rebels games with my friends. We enjoyed hanging out at the park (probably not paying very good attention to the game action, I’m sad to say) and learning the identities of the various players. I remember in 2000 my friend Autumn and I being particularly proud of the fact that we could identify each man on the roster by name and number. Without a shadow of a doubt, our favorite “player” was Mo. I couldn’t tell you what it was, but we just loved him. At season’s end, we collected autographs and a picture with Mo, and listened enraptured as he told us about his days as a schoolteacher. Some years back, my sister and I even had a t-shirt with Mo’s photo on it custom-made for Aut’s birthday.
Everyone has his or her favorite Mo story… one of mine took place in 2004, during a rather unpleasant sort of game. The umpires that evening, to put it nicely, were, um… having some problems making good calls. We watched as our coaching staff got ejected one by one, and, finally, Mo was the last one left. He didn’t miss a beat and, even though it was a bad game outcome-wise, it was a fun one. Mo managed and coached first base, like usual. Fan favorite pitcher Tim Norton was charged with coaching third. It was clear that Tim was having a blast, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the guys enjoyed it, too. I know I did.
Another time, I just happened to overhear a snippet of conversation between Mo, pitching coach Rick Smith, and some fans. I have no earthly idea what they were talking about. The only lines I caught were along these lines:
Coach Smith (about Mo): “He was wrestling a two-hundred pound chimpanzee this morning.”
Mo: “Well, yeah… but he had a muzzle on.”
Figure that one out.
Mo is notorious for his joke-making. For instance, in 2005, the Rebels played in a rain-delayed game, defeating the Covington Lumberjacks 22-3. The contest lasted past 1 AM and, needless to say, most of the fans left before it was finished. “Did you know this park used to be air-conditioned?” Mo asked the straggling crowd between innings late in the game. “There used to be a fan in every seat.” Another time, when my Mom asked how he’d celebrated his birthday, he told her that he had hit all the clubs in downtown New Market. The jokes might be silly, but when Mo tells them nobody can help but laugh.
There is so much more that makes Mo special, but these are the things that are trickier to capture in words. You just have to know. He always has a twinkle in his eye, and a jump in his step (even at 87.) He has been a fixture in the Rebels dugout for so many years… you would almost always spot him talking to one of the young men, doubtless passing on some bit of advice or pearl of wisdom. Occasionally he might stroll over and strike up a conversation with a fan at the fence, or in the stands, hands on his hips, in no kind of hurry. He always wore his signature cleats, navy blue stirrups, and #1 jersey (or, prior to 2006, #11.) Mo always seems to have time to talk to anyone and everyone, and a way of making whoever is on the other end the the conversation feel important.
It will be strange not seeing him in the dugout or on the field any longer. It may be in a different capacity, but I do fully expect the legend to continue to grow. In the meantime, we must offer Mo our heartfelt gratitude for his years of service to our team, along with our best wished for a happy retirement.
Thanks, Mo! We love you.