One week ago this evening (August 12, 2019) I attended “Mo’s 10th Inning,” which was the posthumous party Mo Weber threw for his friends, complete with endless trays of shrimp and an open bar. Laughter erupted constantly in various corners of the room. Photos and mementoes of Mo’s seven-decade coaching career evoked smiles and memories.
The only thing Mo loved more than baseball was his family. The thing is, if you ever met Mo, you were immediately part of his family. He had this great ability to not only connect with people, but to connect those he met to each other.
That night, Martha and I sat with Tom and Tina Carr, down from upstate New York, specifically to attend this 10th Inning. Mo had hired Tom 30 years ago to coach the New Market Rebels who play in Virginia’s Valley Baseball League. As Tom explained, Mo became something of a father to him—and clearly something of a father-in-law to Tina. Tom had read Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley, and he and I had exchanged e-mails, but this was our first in-person encounter. Had you dropped in on the conversation, you might have thought that the four of us had known one another for all of those 30 years. Later in the evening, Tom introduced me to Will Gangwer of New Market. The Gangwers were Tom’s host family when he was coaching and Will was about nine years old. Will is now a second-generation host family. Will had read Safe at Home, too, and enjoyed it so much that he was moved to present to me a print of Rebel Park that his wife, Keisha, had drawn. I had seen the same print prominently displayed in Mo’s home. Tom was clutching one, too.
All evening, I had the sensation that I would look up and see Mo at the bar or at the other end of the buffet line or telling someone the story behind one of those photos. Then it struck me: Maynard G. “Mo” Weber may have died, but he didn’t leave us. That would be impossible, because he was there, within us. The love and respect that he had for his fellow passengers on this Journey was so great that Mo was still connecting people even after he had reached his Destination.
I often stop by Rebel Park on my way through New Market to walk the warning track and listen to the silence. I see in my mind’s eye boys I wrote about and boys who played there; and in this sacred space they remain boys forever. And next time I’m there, and I pass that part of the outfield fence on which Mo Weber’s retired jersey is painted, I’m sure that the emotion will be strong. It won’t be sadness, however, but rather profound gratitude that through Fate or Fortune, I can say that Mo Weber was my friend.