Like many American males, Joe Weaver dreamed of playing professional baseball.

Weaver got his chance, but it didn’t work out and he retired last summer.

He graduated from Stillwater High in 2000, when he hit eight of the team’s state-record 90 home runs. He also went 12-1 on the mound with a 2.94 earned run average.

That led to his joining Oklahoma State, where his best season was a freshman campaign that saw him go 7-0 with a 1.59 ERA, 26 strikeouts and seven walks. He earned All-Big 12, Co-Big 12 Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Freshman All-American honors.

He played for the Cowboys two more seasons before a coaching change that saw Frank Anderson replace Tom Holliday.

Weaver was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 43rd round, 1,276th overall, in 2003. He said he was made an offer for more money than such a selection usually gets and so he skipped his senior year and spent part of the next three seasons playing Class A ball for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and the Lake County Captains.

His career ended with injuries.

First he had Tommy John elbow surgery, recovered from that and discovered he needed shoulder surgery.

“It was only a slim chance I could come back at the level I was before,” Weaver said. “I’d played with some guys who went through the same deal. It got to the point where I was frustrated but the light at the end of the tunnel started to get really dim. I didn’t want to spend another year away from my wife.”

Weaver married a 2002 SHS graduate, the former Sandra Paddock.

Since retiring from baseball, he is back home with his wife and plans to finish his degree in December — a bachelor’s of science in finance with a minor in accounting.

This summer, he is back in baseball, sort of. He is the coach of the Pure Prairie League’s Stillwater Junior Varsity 1.

“It is an honor for me,” Weaver said. “Being a Pioneer, I loved it. I loved Pioneer football and baseball. I would almost put that up there with college baseball and professional baseball. The three years I was here, each year we had great teams. We were competing. We were setting records for home runs.

“Everybody was on the same page and we had all played together since we were kids. We were all good friends. To come back and get to be a part of that again and be on the other end is fun. Hopefully I can teach them a little bit about the passion I had for it.”

Though he isn’t pursuing a coaching career, baseball may always be a part of Weaver’s life. He gives lessons on the side and there is a good reason SHS head coach Gary Gardner asked Weaver to help with the Pure Prairie team.

“He is responsible and has great knowledge, intelligence and was a student of the game even back in high school,” Gardner said. “We’ve been fortunate to have some former pitchers like Dillon (Roach), J.T. (Severe) and even (non-pitcher) Wyatt (Stanfield) come back and help us. Those guys and Joe all know a lot about pitching.”

Weaver clearly knows pitching, and he also knows something most people don’t — what it is like to play college and minor league baseball.

He said professional baseball isn’t as glamorous as one might think. Not only is there the long months away from home — he said he saw his wife for two weeks from June to October his first year in the minors —but the pay isn’t always that great.

“I think they gave everyone raises since then, but my first year you made $850 a month before taxes and health insurance,” Weaver said. “That doesn’t go very far.”

Despite being a professional athlete not working out, Weaver said he had no real regrets.

“Sure, I would have stayed (at OSU) and won a Big 12 Championship,” Weaver said. “But I couldn’t ask for a better organization to get into. I met some great people in the minor leagues. We stayed with a host family my first year and they drove 18 hours from Ohio to come to my wedding. Who is to say if I did change something that the rest would have worked out the way it did?

“I choose to look at the positives and the stuff I did get to experience. I was a 43rd rounder, but I still got drafted and got to do what every kid dreams of from the day they first play baseball — play professionally.”

Weaver will coach two more games today when his Pure Prairie team visits Ponca City for a doubleheader. And he is not completely finished playing himself.

Before an interview Wednesday night, Weaver and his wife played in a coed softball league.

“We have like 20 people on the team and everyone gets to hit,” Weaver said. “I only got one at-bat. I hit a missile right at the left-fielder and he caught it off his chest. My wife had a dinker and beat it out for a hit and an RBI. Now I’m hearing about it from her.”

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