Illini Brett Weber's Rags To Riches Tale

When we or our favorite team suffer indignities or struggle to find our best selves, it is easy to get discouraged and wonder whether future success is possible. So it is encouraging to hear stories from those who went from uncertainty to the mountain top in a short period of time. Former Illini pitcher Brett Weber did just that.

Brett Weber graduated from the University of Illinois nearly 12 years ago. A star pitcher for the Illini baseball team, he toiled several years as a professional in the minor leagues. Desiring a longer-term future in baseball but uncertain how he would accomplish it, he took a job in the business world.

And then, without warning, Weber's destiny took hold. He tells the story well.

"This year was unbelieveable. Going from Smith- Barney wondering where I would be, to being in the World Series with the New York Yankees is something I certainly never expected.

"It did become a reality, and I'm at a loss for words when I think about what happened during the season. We had a great year, a great group of guys and a great coaching staff, and it paid off for us this year."

Weber explains the background on how he was granted this glorious opportunity.

"I try to keep in contact with some people I knew when I played as a minor league player. There's a lot of people in the front office I still knew, and I made some contacts throughout the years.

"I get a phone call last January asking if I'd like to come aboard with this position that became available. I said, 'Absolutely, when do you need me?' They told me to be down there in a week, so I went down to Tampa, Florida, where spring training is.

"I worked with the team all year. I did some on-field stuff as far as throwing batting practice, helping some guys with fielding work, some pitching skills, things like that. I also did some front office things, which I'm doing right now."

His actual position has a vague title, in part because it is a unique hybrid.

"Coaching staff/baseball operations is my title. I do a little bit of both. I wish I had a better title, but it incorporates on-field work which I really like and also front office activities. So I get kind of both worlds. I don't know where it's gonna take me. I'm just along for the ride right now.

"We're getting ready for 2010. We have to decide if we're gonna resign certain guys. (Johnny) Damon and (Hideki) Matsui are free agents, Andy Pettitt is a free agent. We'd love to bring those guys back, but free agency is difficult because they may want too much money and they may have to go somewhere else."

Weber is uncertain whether he will be with the Yankees next year, but as of late November he was still with the team.

"As far as I know, I haven't been offered. It's a year-to-year contract."

He tries to visit his alma mater when possible.

"I was back here last year. I try to get back as much as I can. I try to get back for Christmas, but I'm in New York most of the time. Unfortunately, I can't get back for most football games. We play to November, so it's hard to get back to those games."

During his final year of college play, Weber was named Big 10 Pitcher of The Year and helped Illinois to a Big 10 Championship. That team was 2 outs away from a trip to the College World Series. Does his accomplishment with the Yankees make up for that college disappointment?

"They are very different things. I won a Big 10 ring with the baseball team back in 1998, and to me that's special because I played. Being a player and being on a coaching staff are two different categories, and I have wonderful stories from both. I'm happy to be back here in Champaign."


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