When Gainesville High grad and former University of Georgia catcher Skyler Weber first arrived in Beloit, Wisconsin, earlier this year as a member of the Beloit Snappers minor league baseball team — the low Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics — it didn’t take long for him to realize the many differences between there and Phoenix, where he had played for the previous two seasons.
“There’s a lot of corn up there,” Weber said. “Lots of cornfields.”
It’s been an eventful year for Weber, who just finished up his third season as a member of Oakland’s farm system. The move to Beloit was an upgrade, as it was his first year playing above the Rookie League level.
And even though Beloit isn’t as glamorous a city as Phoenix, Oakland, or even some of the Athletics other minor league destinations like Stockton, California, or Nashville, Weber said he doesn’t have any room to complain.
In a career where relocation could happen at any moment, even at the highest level, going with the flow of things is pretty much the only option.
“Basically you’ve got to have your bags packed, ready to go anywhere they call you,” he said. “The game still stays the same whether I’m in Arizona or Wisconsin or Oakland. It’s the same game. It’s always good to get moved up.”
And whether it was the promotion, the change in scenery or maybe even the corn, the move had a positive impact on Weber’s production. He posted career highs in batting average and on-base percentage, while knocking in 15 RBIs over 194 at bats.
It was also the longest season of Weber had played at any level.
“It’s a lot of baseball,” he said. “Kids are used to playing, even at the college level, 60 games a year plus playoffs. Here you’ve got 140 games plus playoffs. So that’s a whole different atmosphere.”
And while the physical toll playing that many games of baseball has was immense for Weber, the mental pressure to produce was just as great.
“Whenever a game becomes your job and how you put food on the table for your family and support those that you love, it’s very stressful at times,” Weber said. “There’s a lot of up moments and there’s a lot of down moments. There’s a lot of up moments after the down moments. So you’ve just got to basically be mentally prepared for a long season, and if you get in a slump, you can’t stress about it too much, because you’re playing the next day.”
Weber’s achievements this year go beyond just further his professional baseball career, too. Since returning to Gainesville at the conclusion of the minor league season, Weber and childhood friend Hunter Anglin have been working to create a facility for young players to take lessons from coaches who “know how to play the game right.”
It’s a passion project for Weber and Anglin, who have been renovating an abandoned chicken coop into a state of the art practice facility which will serve as a physical home for Anglin’s DP Wave baseball training organization.
“In the offseason, I don’t want to just go and work out,” Weber said. “I want to be able to give back. So I want to give back to the community, and this is a good place for that.”
The two have been doing all the manual labor for the project, including setting up batting cages and bringing in artificial grass.
“It’s a lot of work, but this is worth it to us,” Anglin said. “It gives us something to do every day that we love.”
And the facility — which Weber and Anglin refer to as simply “The Coop” — will be more than just a draw for kids hoping to take their game to the next level.
Weber also plans to do much of his own offseason training there, honing his game in advance of next year’s season. For Weber, the grind doesn’t stop, even though the games have all been played.
“There is no offseason,” he said. “There is no vacation. It’s baseball, baseball, baseball. Striving to get better every day.”
With the MLB baseball season fading into the playoffs, Weber has a couple months to prepare for next year’s spring training, a couple months until he gets his next opportunity to advance.
It’s a chance that Weber said he doesn’t intend on wasting.
“My goal is to get invited to minicamp again and be around those big league guys and have a great spring training and hopefully get into high A this year, and then hopefully go to AA, so I’m going to set my goals high,” Weber said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do.”