Gabby Weiss passes away, legacy will continue on the baseball diamond

Published 6:30 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

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If you’ve been to a baseball game in the Mower County area in the past 40 years, you’ve probably seen somebody that was coached by Gabby Weiss, who passed away this week.

Even in his passing, Weiss’s legacy will live on in his former players who all got their start playing with the Austin All-Stars traveling baseball team, started by Weiss in 1978.

In one case, Weiss helped guide an Austin grad all the way to the Major Leagues. Mike Wuertz went on to play Major League Baseball for eight seasons from 2004-2011 as a middle reliever with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s, finishing with a career record of 21-11 overall and an ERA of 3.71.

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Wuertz played under Weiss as a 12-year old in 1991 and also recalled Weiss as the voice of the Packers on KAUS radio.

“He loved teaching kids. One of the things he brought upon us is that he taught us the fundamentals of the game and the love of the game,” Wuertz said. “That carried over all the way up through high school. I think that’s one thing that’s gone away from youth baseball in other parts of the country. Once we moved into high school, Gabby was always in the stands in football, basketball and baseball. I played a lot of games through high school and he was there for basically every one of them.”

Wuertz, who coaches Minor League Baseball, now has his own son playing baseball and he’s gained a perspective on what Weiss did.

“There’s a care factor of putting in all of that time and taking care of all of the details. When you become a parent, you understand the investment that Gabby put in,” Wuertz said. “I just think he was kind of the gold face, so to speak, of Austin sports with everything he put in. He had a lot of help too, and when I think of my first year as a 12-year old with him and Lefty Kelly, they brought in a lot of passion and enthusiasm. They had a care that they brought to the players over the course of time, all the way through the high school years. From being a young boy to a man, they saw the maturation and I think that’s the coolest thing.”

Lyle-Pacelli head baseball coach Brock Meyer, who recently led L-P to its second straight Section 1A championship, has coached many former All-Star players and he’s also coached against many of them.

“The All-Star program has been huge for smaller schools, because it gives players a chance to play more games and compete at higher levels than they would get with rec or town teams. Most of the time, smaller schools can’t get enough players to fill a travel roster,” Meyer said. “It helps with social skills by getting to meet new players and develop life long friendships even when kids usually play against each other in high school.”

Meyer also coached his sons when they were in All-Stars baseball, but he met Weiss well before he ever got into coaching. Meyer’s first meeting with Weiss was when he was a freshman in high school and he was interviewed by Weiss on KAUS on a Saturday morning show.

“Ever since that day he always made a point to say ‘hi’ and talk a little baseball,” Meyer said. “He was a special person and someone I looked up to in my playing days and now coaching.  One of the things I loved about him is that he always put the kids first and that influenced me to do the same in my coaching career.  He was a great person and will definitely be missed by many.”

Weiss, an Austin native, was also inducted into the Minnesota Fastpitch Coach’s Association Hall of Fame in 1992 as an umpire. After his passing, social media was flooded with well wishers of former players, parents of former players, and community members who knew Weiss well.

Dan Ransom, a former All-Stars coach, was one of those well wishers as his sons Peyton and Jordan both played All-Stars baseball.

“There are so many favorite memories of watching Jordan and Peyton play. I loved watching them play with their friends and experience both winning and losing. The experiences off the baseball field while we were staying in hotels or out to eat helped us grow relationships that we otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Ransom said. “There are numerous things that I loved about Gabby, but he always cared about how my boys were doing and how their teams were playing. He would text me all the time to talk about the Twins or to discuss Peyton’s high school team.”

Ransom said that Weiss worked to make All-Stars affordable for any family that wanted their kid to play. He also credited Weiss for sending teams to Canada and Omaha to give them big game experiences.

“Gabby knew everyone’s name and he genuinely cared about all of the kids that had ever been in All Stars. He loved Marcusen Park. That was his home away from home,” Ransom said. “Gabby was a legend and was loved by everyone who was affiliated with All Stars in some way.”

Jeff Yocom worked with Weiss on the All-Stars Board in the early 2000s and he saw the program grow each and every year. At one point, there were about 200 kids trying out to play All-Stars baseball.

Yocom said he recently ran into Weiss and Weiss was still talking about All-Stars baseball.

“When Gabby was holding tryouts, most of the kids knew who he was and they would all flock to him,” Yocom said. “For Austin baseball, he was a big influence in getting things started.”

In the summertime, Weiss could often be found at Marcusen Park or Todd Park watching a ball game. Weiss would also dive into deep baseball conversations at the sight of a familiar face.

“Anytime you went to a ball diamond, Gabby would be there,” Yocom said. “If you went over to his house, he had a ball game on. Gabby never forgot a name and he’ll never be forgotten.”