“Jackson Weller was one of the classiest kids I’ve ever coached,” Lobo Baseball Head Coach Ray Birmingham said as he held back tears. “This was the first time in 42 years I’ve lost one of the players on my watch.”
Birmingham, Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez and outfielder Brayden Merritt spoke with members of the media about Weller, who was shot and killed outside of a Nob Hill nightclub early Saturday morning.
During the press conference, Birmingham and Merritt reflected on how Weller came to play for the Lobos and what he meant to the team, despite never throwing a pitch in a series game.
“He made us a family,” Merritt said.
Merritt said that during their 2019 opener in Arizona, Weller drove out to watch his teammates play despite being injured. Weller sat in the front row, cheering his teammates the whole game. Merritt said Weller was always hanging around the dugout during home games and always active in the team’s group chat.
Weller, who was born in Texas, was one of the best pitching prospects coming out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area before an arm injury ended his high school career. The injury led to pitch at Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, according to Birmingham.
He said that Weller was suggested to him by a friend. Weller played for the Farmington Frackers, a American Amateur Baseball Congress team, over the summer. Birmingham said Weller’s arm was beginning to heal and Weller was able to throw a 90-mph fastball for the first time in three years.
But that progress was set back when Weller suffered another injury resulting in surgery, according to Birmingham.
“He took it like a champ, he took it better than any of us would have,” Birmingham said. “(Weller) said ‘coach, I’m gonna get past this, I’m going to rehab.’”
The details of Weller’s death have not been disclosed and no one has been arrested as of the publication of this article.
Nuñez declined on behalf of Birmingham to comment on the effects that this might have on future recruiting, as well as on the status of the investigation, saying that this wasn’t the time to discuss these issues and to keep the focus on Weller.
The team postponed the remainder of a series with Air Force after Weller was killed.
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“I just know that he would be like ‘ok, you guys cancelled the game on Saturday, go play on Sunday,’ ” Merritt said during the conference.
The Lobos will return to the field on Friday against UNLV for the final home series of the season.
Official plans for how UNM Athletics will honor Weller are still being discussed, but Merritt noted that not only will the rest of the season be dedicated to him, but “the rest of our lives as well.”
A private memorial was held for Weller on Sunday morning in the Lobos clubhouse for members of the team and Weller’s father, according to Birmingham. A funeral for Weller will be held on Monday, May 13 at 1 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Colleyville, Texas. Birmingham said that he will attend alongside some members of the team. Weller’s family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations are made to the Children’s Cancer Fund of New Mexico.
Cameron Goeldner is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for all other sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.
Justin Garcia is the editor in chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Just516garc.