Program gives players broader perspective

Aug. 16, 2010

The wins piled up, the trophies grew more numerous, and the fundraising became more urgent this summer for the Menomonee Falls U-12 gray Junior Indians baseball team.

The intensity grew when the team turned all their wins and all their fundraising into an historic effort at the 104-squad National Youth Baseball Tournament at Cooperstown Dream Park in New York in July making the Sweet 16 round before falling.

It was the best effort ever of a Falls team in that annual event.

But for team co-coach Dave Weber, the best moment didn't have anything to do with all that success, it had to do with something that every parent wants to do for their children - give them a better opportunity than they had, which Weber was trying to do for his son, Tyler, who was a member of this squad. There were other father/son relationships on the coaching staff, too, with the same idea.

Fewer opportunities in '80s

Most people in the area know Dave Weber's story, paperboy, athlete, NFL draft choice, coach and worthy Menomonee Falls Athletic Hall of Fame member.

He's also humble as all heck and avoids the spotlight at all costs, remembering his roots every step along the way.

Weber grew up in a time (late 1970s, early 1980s) when there weren't select teams, high-level coaching or road trips to New York for kids in sports. He came up at a time when the Falls Recreation Department threw out the balls and bats and let the kids go at it through things like the Redshirts baseball program (shirts were of different colors as children got older).

"We had fun," said Weber of days gone by, "but it was nothing like we have now."

Indeed, it was a slower pace, a little easier on the parental schedule and pocketbook, but the chance for development wasn't as great.

Fast-forward 25 years, Tyler and his friends have been playing together for three years as part of a two-team program (burgundy and gray). They practice twice-a-week in winter (January-March) and when they get outside, it'll be three times a week.

Parents will shell out close to $300 over the course of the season just for the right to participate (not including travel costs).

They get the attention of a series of well-intentioned coaches, frequently people with a lot of baseball experience (like Dave Weber) and so the chance to improve is there.

"The kids put a lot into it," said Weber. "They get out of school, gulp down a sandwich and get to practice."

And because this is the Falls, with a pulse for baseball that rolls as strong as the Menomonee River at the height of the spring runoff, there are high expectations, hence if they put in the time and effort, the kids on these teams will earn the right to take part in the Cooperstown Dream Park Tournament on the grounds of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame in New York.

Fundraising for three years

But before they can do that, they have to put in even more work and very little of it has to do with catching, hitting or throwing the ball.

"We started fundraising for this trip when they were nine (three years)," Weber said. That included taking advantage of the generosity of Krueger's to open its bowling center for nine bowl-a-thons where the families and the players sought out individuals and companies to sponsor them for amounts large and small.

But to really make the trip possible, other outside sponsors had to be enlisted and that number went well north of 25.

It didn't hurt to know that the coaches had an idea that this year's edition of the team had a chance at doing something when they got to Cooperstown. The Falls gray U-12 squad won the Wisconsin State Youth Baseball League title as well as three other tournament championships with a final record of 41-4.

"We didn't know if we could win it (Cooperstown) or not," said Weber, "but it was fun when we got there to see that we could do well and compete." The burgundy team went .500 in its pool play while the gray team won its pool, going 6-0. That success allowed them to skip a couple of rounds of the single-elimination tournament that followed.

They beat a team from California before falling to a unit from Kansas, 9-7. Tyler Weber, a combination infielder/pitcher had five home runs in the tournament while Zach Kornburger and Boyd Sansone had three apiece.

But in Dave Weber's eyes, the biggest success of the event came off the field. The teams stayed in bunkhouses on the grounds and part of their fundraising went toward pins with their team name and logo on it (each player had close to a 100 of these things).

The players then went out and met up with kids from other teams and started trading their pins. The pins even became markers in the card games they played at night.

"That was so much fun to watch," said Dave.

And that's when father began to feel good about the opportunity he had provided for his son, and for the sons of other fathers who couldn't be there.

"When you're blessed enough to have a son or daughter (Weber has three children ages 9 to 14, with Tyler being the middle child), who takes up a sport you yourself like too, you try and provide them with the best opportunity possible, an opportunity that you yourself may have never had," Dave said.

"I never had chances like these, but this was his (Tyler's) opportunity, and he makes it easy on me. He still listens to me, he still talks to me and I'll take that for as long as I can."

What more could any father ask for?

Junior Indian baseball

Combined burgundy & gray teams

Coaches: Mike Kohnert, Don Eisenhauer, Tony Fowle, Mark Plantier, Jim Wright, Ralph Kornburger, Mike Emmer and Dave Weber.

Players: Jim Eisenhauer, Boyd Sansone, Josh Schwechel, Casey Nitz, Nick Koebert, Joey Olson, Brandon Kohnert, Myles Mayer, Jake Lucht, Nate Fuiten, Joe Plantier, Michael Russell, Marcus Haufschild, Danny Balister, Casey Reich, Ty Weber, Ben Bosch, James Wright, Nick Weyenberg, Zach Kornburger, Jonah Fowle, Matt Emmer, Tyler Becker, and Noah Richardson.

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