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Avery Weber finds a baseball home in Hadley

Hadley Buttermakers pitcher Avery Weber is taking better care of his body, and he's helping the amateur team with his pitching.

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HADLEY — When Avery Weber first arrived here three summers ago, his heart was a bit heavy.

And so was his body.

He’d left his hometown in Missouri after graduating from high school for a job at Hadley Steel, a company started in part by his grandfather, Brent Johnson.

Weber was then a 260-pound teenager with a baseball history as a relief pitcher, so he joined the Hadley Buttermakers and had limited success.

Fast forward three years and Weber is a happy man in Hadley, where he’s found a new home — and a healthier outlook.

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“I started working out a lot and lost 50 or 60 pounds,” he said. “I dieted a lot and now I’m also working for Hadley Steel, which is hard work outside.

“I feel a lot better about myself and my pitching.”

It shows. On Sunday the 205-pound right-hander pitched six strong innings as Hadley defeated previously unbeaten Windom 6-1 in an amateur game at Laurie Mahon Memorial Field. Weber struck out four and allowed only five hits, while registering his third victory of the summer.

With several members of the Buttermaker pitching staff unavailable because of injury and other commitments so far this summer, Weber has certainly lightened the load for manager Myron Bennett’s squad.

“Avery has been a big bright spot for us,” said Hadley slugger Max Zwart, who had two hits and two RBIs as the Buttermakers improved to 4-2. “He’s thrown really well against some really good teams.”

Eric Wieneke had two sacrifice flies and Justin Benda contributed two hits and a run batted in for the Buttermakers. Veteran catcher Trent Carlson also had a run-scoring single.

That proved to be plenty of support for Weber. Drew Rothenberger and Noah Kloss had doubles for Windom, but the Pirates left the bases loaded in the third, had a few base-running miscues and three times failed to score after putting the lead off man at second with nobody out.

“We had a few mistakes on the base paths, which hurt us,” said Windom manager Nick Kulseth. “We didn’t get the timely hitting we needed.

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“It’s a good rivalry with (the Buttermakers). It’s back and forth all the time.”

Weber threw 86 pitches, primarily fastballs. He’s not overpowering. But what Weber might lack in terms of stuff he compensates for with dogged determination.

Weber’s grandfather Brent was once a star for the Buttermakers. Brent’s father, Wally, also played back in the day for Hadley. Avery’s uncle, Dan Johnson, also played a lot of baseball for the Buttermakers, as did a cousin, Garrett Johnson. Yet another cousin, Kellan Johnson, is a fine outfielder for Bennett’s club now.

Certainly the Buttermakers have accepted Avery as part of the family.

“They made me feel welcome the first year I was here,” Weber said. “I’ve had a few more opportunities so far this year and I’m trying to do my best.”

Weber is from the Branson, Mo., area, where he played baseball but had no college offers.

It was a good decision to come to southwest Minnesota.

“One of my better ones,” Weber smiled. “I love it here.”

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Hadley fans are pretty happy about it these days, too.

“Avery’s a great guy,” Zwart said. “A good one to have on your team, that’s for sure.”

Scott Mansch, who in a crowded Viking tavern has been known to say “Go Pack Go” at times in complete disregard for his health, can be reached at smansch5rockets@gmail.com
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