Chris Masse on baseball: Gavin Weir has been nothing shy of amazing
Gavin Weir awed Sioux Falls manager Mike Gorsett once again Wednesday evening.
And no, this was not as Gorsett watched Weir throw another no-hitter at the Little League World Series as Sioux Falls blanked California, 1-0, while reaching Saturday’s Tom Seaver Bracket championship. Amazingly, Gorsett has kind of grown accustomed to watching that dominance.
This was after the game, and it had nothing to do with the game itself. It followed this comment Weir issued after being asked about his latest pitching masterpiece:
“It’s not just me. My whole team does a lot of the work. They need to get more credit for what they do,” Weir said. “They’re great teammates and I have fun playing alongside them.”
Gorsett apologized, but said he must interrupt at this point. This is what left him feeling even better than when he watched Weir dazzle again.
“That’s what make this kid so special. That makes me just feel so proud for him, for his parents, for everyone,” Gorsett said. “This is not him being a showman. This is who he is in the dorm rooms and outside of the fans. He is a team player and loves his teammates and I can’t be more proud of him.”
Weir is a special pitcher, but he anyone who has followed his journey will tell you he is an equally special person. And maybe that is what makes his story such a fun one watching unfold. Good guys can finish first and Weir is proving it.
Because the bottom line is this: Gavin Weir is the best Little League pitcher this reporter has ever seen.
Now listen, I am not going the ESPN instant historian route and saying that just because something great is happening now means it or he or she is the best ever. I started covering the Little League World Series for the Sun-Gazette in 1999 so my statement simply covers those years when I’ve actually watched the games here. Maybe someone before that time was as good or even better, but I did not see them so I cannot make that statement.
I have watched countless phenomenal pitchers at the Series over these last 23 years, some who have played or are playing in the majors. And yet, I still confidently say that if I had one game to win and could pick any pitcher from 1999 until now at the Series, I would pick Weir every time and twice on Sunday.
He has been that ridiculously dominant, not just here but this entire summer. The flame-throwing lefty has allowed one hit … this summer. That is not a misprint. From districts through states, regionals and the Series one player can say he produced a hit against Weir. It just doesn’t make sense, anyone being that overpowering.
Weir has not acted human since regionals started and was involved in his fourth straight no-hitter since then Wednesday when he threw his latest no-no and struck out 14 against California. That followed his Series-opening gem when Weir threw 5 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball and struck out 15 in a 2-0 win against Louisiana.
From regionals on, Weir has gone 4-0, allowing no hits or runs while striking out 59 in 22 2/3 innings. He threw a perfect game against Iowa, a no-hitter against Midwest champion Nebraska, then somehow kept elevating his performance at the Series.
“We knew that Gavin Weir was going to be lights out which he was,” California manager Javier Chavez said. “This kid is a special, special pitcher. He has great stuff. He’s a great kid on and off the field.
“He’s a great pitcher, no doubt about it,” Louisiana shortstop Landyn Craft said. “I’ve never seen anyone like that.”
Neither have I.
I mean every year here; spectacular pitchers do amazing things, but Weir is in a different league. Look at the two teams he blew through. Louisiana captured the Southwest championship, entered the Series undefeated and scored at least six runs in every regional game. California was undefeated at the Series before running into Weir and had scored 19 runs in two games.
The no-hitters are impressive enough, but it’s the way Weir threw them that really stands out. Both games Noah Kuenzi hit first-inning RBI singles, giving Sioux Falls a 1-0 lead. Both times, I had the feeling that would be all Weir needed. Both times he proved it. There never was a point in either game where it felt like Louisiana or California might be getting ready to strike either.
Somehow a one-run lead felt like it might as well have been 100. Just hitting foul balls was difficult against Weir who grew stronger as each game progressed and overwhelmed two powerful teams while helping his team become the first in South Dakota history to reach a Series championship game.
“I knew Gavin would shut them down defensively,” Kuenzi said. “Getting that hit was really big because Gavin is not going to give up any runs, so one run is going to win the game for us if it has to.”
Baseball is one of the most unpredictable sports. One swing can change everything. One can hit lasers all game and see them become outs, or one can hit a swinging bunt four feet and have it be the game’s difference. Weir has trumped that unpredictability. He holds all the cards on the mound, and they are all aces.
A cardinal rule is never mention when someone is throwing a no-hitter. I follow it, too. Well, I did. When Weir recorded the first out against California, I fired up a tweet talking about his no-hitter so I could hit send when he completed it. It was a done deal. The baseball gods have met their match this summer against Weir on the mound. He literally was unbeatable.
Barring rain forcing games to be played Monday, Weir cannot pitch again at the Series since he needs four days rest after throwing 83 pitches against California. What he did on the mound at Volunteer Stadium, however, will not soon be forgotten.
“Throwing no-hitters is just awesome. I’ve never been this dominant, never been this good in my life,” Weir said. “All the training I’ve been doing, my coaching helping me a lot, my parents helping me. … Everybody is giving me the support to be my best, to be me.”
That is all Weir has ever focused on. That is what makes him so good. Yes, his left arm seems like it has been touched by God, but history is filled with talented pitchers who did not harness that talent or find out how good they could be.
Baseball is Weir’s love but working is his passion. He has worked since he was 4 on becoming the best pitcher possible. He has played alongside his older brother Drew (15) in different leagues and tournaments so he could face the stiffest competition possible.
He has perfected five different pitches, all which he throws with devastating effectiveness. Weir throws in the 70 mile per hour range but he’s hardly just a thrower. His curveball his devastating and all his off-speed pitches can buckle the knees. He works inside, outside, up, down, ahead and efficient. At times he looks more machine, than young man.
Weir did not become this great by accident. He studies, he works, and he puts it all together when the games start.
“He does all the little things during practices. He does all the things to prepare,” Gorsett said. “The game preparation, the game film … he knows these hitters. He’s a seasoned veteran and that’s something you don’t find in a lot of 12-year-olds. He’s got the It factor.”
He never breaks either. One hoping to decipher how Weir is feeling during a game can never tell by watching his reactions. If someone reaches base, he erases that thought and moves on to the next hitter. He doesn’t care what has happened. His only focus is the next pitch. Weir is a 12-year-old going on 32.
There is only one pitcher I have seen in South Williamsport these last 23 years who reminds me of Weir and that is Danny Almonte. Of course, Almonte was a 14-year-old and his coaches were cheating during that 2001 Series. And even with the advantages Almonte enjoyed, Weir still is better.
The amazing thing is that someone actually does have a hit against Weir this summer. Rapid City’s Noah Wald laced a single into right field during the state semifinals. That came last month which in baseball pitching time feels like light years ago.
“Everyone should be calling that kid’s name from Rapid City,” Gorsett said as he laughed.
Actually, though, future opponents might want to pick Wald’s brain. He did something that has felt impossible this summer. He proved that Weir is not Superman even if his Series performance has turned opposing hitters in a bunch of Clark Kents.
It took me 23 years to see someone as remarkable as Weir. The crazy thing is I feel like even if I covered this event for the next 50 years, I might never see anyone as freakishly good again.
“He’s absolutely electric. He’s lights out,” Gorsett said. “If you don’t know his name you need to know his name.”
Chris Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.