After Years of Travel with Many Teams, Florence Player May Be Finished
Thu, 09/01/2016 - 00:27 RCN Newsdesk
"I'm probably about 95% sure, this is probably going to be my last year."
Travis Weaver, the standout shortstop for the Florence Freedom, has a travel log like a truck driver's. And his road may be ending.
Weaver attended NAIA Affiliated Bluefield College in Virginia on scholarship and played baseball under coach Mike White, graduating in 2011 with a degree in sports management.
From there he played in three professional leagues across the United States and Canada, most recently the Frontier League in Florence.
In 2011 he had a workout with the Gateway (Missouri) Grizzlies in the Frontier League and wasn't picked up. Two weeks later, Weaver signed with the now-defunct Lake County (Illinois) Fielders of the North American League and played with them for a week before being traded to the Lincoln (Nebraska) Saltdogs of the American Association.
2012 saw Travis being traded to the Normal (Illinois) CornBelters of the Frontier League, then traded again to the Windy City (Illinois) Thunderbolts of the same league where he played until a new manager was brought on and Travis was released.
Signed by the Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers of the American Association during the 2013 spring training, Travis was ultimately released, only to be picked up by the Newark (New Jersey) Bears of the Canadian-American League. The Bears folded after that season.
For the players made free by the Bears' demise, an expansion draft was held at the end of 2013 and Travis was sent packing again, to Quebec and the Trois Rivieres Aigles where he played part of the 2014 season. After not hitting well, Travis was released midway through the year.
One week later Travis would be picked up by the Amarillo (Texas) Sox of the American Association where he finished out 2014. Travis asked to be released because of the strain of the long travel times.
Now, after arriving in Florence for the 2015 season, Weaver may be ready to hang it up as a professional baseball player.
Along with his miles, Travis also has a laundry list of broken bones, torn ligaments, sprains, strains, bumps and bruises. A partial list of injuries he's suffered: broken middle right finger, plantar fasciitis - completely torn in left foot, plantar fasciitis - tear in right foot, bruised elbow, bruised left calf, and bruised left thigh.
And that's just what ails him now.
"As far as minor league baseball goes, this is the best training staff and facility in my years of playing," Weaver said, a nod to Freedom athletic trainer Brian Jett and team physician, Dr. Jon G. Divine of UC Health.
"Without Jett there's no way I could continue to play everyday," Weaver said, taking a seat on the training table, pointing to his feet as a motorized air boot was providing daily therapy to his left foot.
"I got cortisone shots in there at the beginning of the year but they've pretty well worn off because my feet are starting to hurt a lot more again but you get through it. It's a constant battle."
With his body reserved only for games, Weaver has not taken batting practice in over a month and has missed only four contests so far and still chalks a respectable .254 batting average (73 hits in 287 tries) with 11 doubles and 4 home runs along with 39 runs scored and 27 runs batted in. Despite his ailing feet, he's swiped 15 bags this season, too.
Weaver's defense also shines. He has committed only 21 errors in 720 innings.
Weaver, 27, could return to the Freedom, where the Frontier League's maximum age is 28.
But, "I could pretty easily find a job there but the 10 to 12-hour bus rides are just... I'm getting older, this could be it, but I want to play as many games as I can before it's all said and done."
August 23 is a day Weaver won't soon forget either as that marked his 400th game as a professional.
He credits Gary Templeton, an 18-year veteran shortstop in Major League Baseball, as an inspiration for continuing. Weaver played for Templeton in Newark. "I really didn't recognize it at the time and then looking back I would remember him saying something and I would be like, oh, that's what he meant."
Travis grew up on a chicken farm owned by his parents, Mark and Carol Weaver in Weyers Cave, Virginia, and he enjoys returning there in the off-season to help and to work at his grandparent-owned The Country Canner located at a farmers market in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Two of his brothers (Travis is the second of four kids) were in town over the weekend to visit and Weaver said that his retirement gift from his girlfriend Miranda were two tickets to watch his beloved Cleveland Browns visit the Washington Redskins on October 2.
"The games are winding down. This is all I've done since I was four years old and know that I don't have too many games left." Florence's season includes just four more games. They will not qualify for the playoffs. "I don't want to sit out."
"It's about time to start the new chapter in my life, I feel. I'm trying to stay healthy and making it through this and then see where my life takes us, I guess."
Written by Erik Lake, RCN contributor