Jeannette grad Weightman completes season in high-level summer baseball league
This was no community rec league.
Jeannette native Brian Weightman just completed the season with the Geneva Red Wings of the New York Collegiate Baseball League, a serious summer baseball league for collegiate players.
After all, Weightman — who will be a senior on the St. Bonaventure University baseball team in the fall — is a serious player.
“I think the season went pretty well,” he said. “It was a good experience.”
Weightman, an outfielder, played for Johnstown of the All-American Amateur Baseball Association in each of the past two summers.
While the AAABA is also a league that features college baseball players, the NYCBL features players from a broader geographic area, meaning the talent level is a bit higher.
“They're similar leagues in that it's college players,” he said. “But this year, it was more players from all over the country. The competition level was pretty high.”
In the NYCBL, batting numbers are generally lower than most players are used to with their college teams due not only to the increased level of competition, but also the fact that wooden bats are used, unlike the aluminum bats of the NCAA.
Weightman hit .231 with 18 hits and 16 RBIs in 28 games with the Red Wings.
“At the beginning of the year, I was struggling a little bit, just getting back into it,” he said. “But the second half of the year, I started playing pretty well.”
The most significant stat for Weightman, however, was that he accumulated 78 at-bats in approximately six weeks.
The local product has been largely a reserve at NCAA Division I St. Bonaventure — last year with the Bonnies, he had just 33 at-bats — so accumulating significant, meaningful at-bats has been a challenge.
In fact, that's the primary reason he played in the summer league.
“My coach at St. Bonaventure encourages us to play somewhere in the summer, to keep getting reps,” said Weightman. “Getting a lot of at-bats was big. Just being up there, being around baseball, helps, too.
“We had morning workouts, and then the games would be at night. We would work on fielding, fly-balls, whatever you needed to work on. We kept getting reps with everything. Being in the summer, you had all the time in the world to work on things.”
Beyond the on-field baseball, the NYCBL teaches those off-the-field baseball lessons, too. For one thing, the league is set up much like a professional minor league.
In addition to using wooden bats, the players take busses from small town to small town for games, and they live together in dormitories, which helped to quickly build team chemistry.
“That's pretty much how they set it up for us, to be like the minor leagues,” said Weightman. “They're trying to get that sort of feel and create that experience.”
With summer baseball behind him, Weightman is now focused on his last year of college baseball. It starts with fall ball at the end of August, then the official collegiate season in the spring.
“I took a day off after the (NYCBL) season, then got right back into the weight room,” said Weightman. “I'm keeping up with my cage swings, staying as sharp as possible, for when I go back to school in the fall.”
Weightman's goals for his final season are clear: he wants to be a starter. The summer he spent playing in the NYCBL should be a help.
“I'm hoping to become a full-time starter, but coach isn't going to give it to you,” he said. “I'll have to earn it.”
Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.