By Jeremy Stafford — email@example.com
NEW MARKET — For Maynard “Mo” Weber, Friday evening at Rebels Park had an unusual feeling to it.
For one, he wore a light blue blazer and slacks instead of his typical navy blue No. 1 Rebels jersey and pinstripe pants. For another, he was able to walk around the park, mingle with friends — many of whom approached him with a hand and a laugh — munch on a burger and sip from a cold bottle of water.
Retirement definitely has its perks.
“I have a great feeling about New Market because they gave me an opportunity to participate in baseball,” said Weber, who coached his last game as a New Market Rebels assistant coach on Wednesday, then celebrated his 87th birthday on Thursday. “When you get to be older you don’t see too many baseball coaches much past 60 or 65, and I’m 87.
“I’m running out of gas — and oil.”
Weber has been the Rebels’ one consistent face for the past 31 years, 17 of which he spent coaching.
As the head coach at the College of William and Mary in 1979, Weber received a phone call from New Market about a pitcher, and Weber eventually asked if the Rebels needed a coach.
“I was fortunate to get a job that I love in a place I love, and I’m just sorry I have to leave,” Weber said. “I guess I thought I could do it this year and I didn’t give it any consideration till the year began to roll on.”
What really got to Weber were the late, restless nights. When the Rebels were on the road Weber wouldn’t get back to New Market until after midnight, then he’d still have to drive back to his home in Luray. Often, Weber wouldn’t get to bed until 1 a.m.
The assistant coach tried to speak to each player in the dugout during a game, whether they were playing well or not. He admitted he had a soft spot for those players who didn’t excel.
But the season began to wear on Weber. The drives home, especially on the weekends, became uncomfortable. He told his wife he was considering retirement and mentioned it to Rebels coach Corey Paluga, too.
Wednesday’s game was slated to be Weber’s last as a New Market coach. New Market was to host Haymarket, which at the time had the highest batting average and best record in the league.
The Rebels decided to dedicate the game to Weber.
With the game tied, 3-3, going into the bottom of the ninth, leadoff hitter Kenny Mickens scored from third on a sacrifice fly from Brent Mikionis.
To celebrate Weber’s departure, the Rebels gave him not only a win, but later stood in a circle around him, arms locked with shoulders, and dipped and bobbed before shouting his name and dispersing.
Mickens said there was an eerie silence in the dugout at Front Royal on Thursday.
“It wasn’t as bad because I could hear him in the stands and everything,” said Mickens, who is spending his second consecutive summer in New Market. “But sometimes there were those moments where I expected to hear his voice in the dugout and it just wasn’t there.”
On Friday, Weber took a seat in the second row of chairs behind home plate. He was eating a hamburger.
Not long before the start of the game against Covington, Max Kreuter and Cameron Ward approached the Rebels’ emblem — a swirling “R” –shaved and painted into the grass behind home plate. Weber’s name and jersey number are now shaved and painted there, too. Kreuter and Ward asked Weber to join them by the dugout, and the Rebels dipped and bobbed and shouted his name again.
Weber returned to his seat to watch Rebels pitcher William Falasco retire the side to start the game. In the bottom of the first, Weber watched Rusty Smith score on a stand-up double from Jordan Owen.
Retirement might have its perks, but so did coaching.
“It’s something that’s not hard to describe, but hard to talk about because you care about the people so much,” Weber said. “Other people have jobs — this was a combination of not just a job, but a great feeling of being able to help, a good feeling of being able to contribute and make people feel good about themselves, to help people have some self-esteem, and at least I know I’m doing what I want to do and sharing what I can.”