Reposting from 2011 – SoftballCenter’s greatest fan honored on Father’s Day!
Softball Center's greatest fan has passed on. On this father's day I would like to honor the man that showed me the game of softbal…My dad, Richard (Dick) Weiser who was born on June 19, 1942 passed away back on January 27th at the age of 68. He died from a stroke just two days before he was to undergo open heart surgery to repair 2 leaky valves and create 3 new bypasses. My brother and sister in law had just thrown him a Thanksgiving style party to boost his spirits for the upcoming surgery and 20+ of his closest family members had shown up to partake. It was a great day and the worst of days.
Dad with his award from the American Society of Gas Engineers
Dad grew up playing baseball, basketball, and football in the small town of Jewett, Ohio. As the teenage son of the towns doctor, he often drove his dad to the scene of car accidents and emergencies. He met my mother in 1958 and they dated for 10 years before marrying for 43 more. After going to college for 2 years at Ohio State University, dad joined the military as an electronics and communications specialist. After a year of training at the Pentagon he was stationed in Turkey for 18 months. Upon his return home, he finished his degree in physics at Baldwin Wallace College near Cleveland, Ohio and obtained a job with The American Gas Association (now called CSA) where he worked for 41 years as a gas engineer until his retirement in the summer of 2010.
When a friend or colleague loses one of their parents, you often look at the situation and rationalize it in your mind. You think, well he/she lived a good long life and passed and everyone will move on. When you lose a parent of your own the hurt and loss leaves a hole in your life that can never be replaced. Only those that have lost can understand. I for sure did not understand until now.
Dad was a great man and role model. He never had a harsh word to say about anyone. To this day, I don't ever recall him cursing. He rarely raised his voice unless he needed to correct us growing up (which was rare). He worked hard and was well respected in his industry. I have great memories of backyard basketball games, batting practice sessions, and the fact that he came to our ball games long after we were all married and had children of our own. The man loved his family, mom, technology, photography, and sports.
Dad with my kids a few years back
Dad's start in softball began when he joined the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church softball team in the early 1980's and he would always drag mom and his 3 young sons to the games. As we grew older we learned to catch and hit softballs just as much as we played with baseballs and in those days at the young age of 14 we were allowed to join the adult men's church team. By 1988 all 4 of us were playing on the team. Dad was managing and playing whatever position was vacant including pitcher. My older brother Rich was holding down the 4 hole in the lineup at age 16 until present day. He had stints at shortstop and pitcher as well as outfield. My younger brother, Dave, eventually led the team in hitting for almost 10 straight years and became a difference maker at pitcher. Meanwhile I held down the leadoff and Left Field spots for over 20 years and along with another group of 2nd generation softballer's formed the core of a team that would win more than 10 league championships and 8 league tournament titles and spark my passion in softball for a lifetime.
My parents, my brother Rich (right), Dave (middle), and me
In the 1980's my dad and I would bike ride up to the Parma Premier league throughout the summer on a Tuesday or Thursday night to State Road Park and we would watch some of the top women's and men's teams in the self proclaimed "softball capital of the world". Parma, which is a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio was home to many of the Men's and Women's Major and Class 'A' Championship tournaments that were traditionally held over Labor Day Weekend. It was also home to the 1992 ASA 'A' Champion Medina Body Shop and the 1980's ASA Major Non Ferrous Metals team.
The tournament that stands out for me, was the 1990 Class 'A' Men's Championship held at State Road Park (just 7 blocks from where I grew up). On Thursday night the Steele's Silver Bullets took on the Armed Forces All Stars in an exhibition game. My dad asked us if we wanted to check it out. That exhibition game kicked off 5 days of the best softball I had ever witnessed. That weekend, 77 teams battled for the title with the Armed Forces drawing big crowds as well as the local Parma Premier Champions – Laborers Local 310 led by Dave Neale Jr and Andy Okulovich Jr who were sons of the hall of famer's by the same names. The favorite to win was Vernon's out of Florida who had also won the 'A' the previous year. In the end, Armed Forces finished 4th, and Vernon's "double dipped" the local Laborer's team in the championship in front of a Smoky Mountain Classic sized crowd. I had just watched approximately 45 hours of great softball, had cancelled some part time work I was supposed to do that weekend before going back to college in order to watch, and spent much of it with my dad. For months afterwards I had only one thought. How to build a team to play in the ASA 'A' men's division. Over the next 10 years my teams never did make it to that level (some local 'C' was the highest level we attained) but that tournament that my dad had introduced me to ignited a life long passion.
More recently my dad had traveled with me to the 2008 'B' World and Major World Series at Disney, the 2009 Major, the 2010 Indy Major, and the 2010 Smoky Mountain Classic with me. Weekend's I will forever treasure. He also traveled with me to softball super fan Carl Greer's house this past fall to pick up Carl's files of softball history that he had collected since 1974. Dad was also planning to come to the Las Vegas Major to open the 2011 Conference USSSA season in April.
I would like to thank my dad for all the great memories like the chocolate icing on saltine cracker's parties (with a cold gallon of milk) after mom went to bed, the introduction to sports, in particular softball, the family vacations (Rehobeth and Myrtle Beach, work trips), introducing us to the latest computer or phone technology, and most of all for being a great role model and family man and helping us out with all of the everyday problems each of us has.
But most of all, thank you for being our biggest fan!
Dad and his favorite toy
The Weiser Family Reunion – My parents, my brothers and our wives, and our kids (2005)
Dad taking a picture at the Indiana Major in 2010 (lower right in the chair)