By STEVE KRAH
Drew Weston chose “a quarter” and it changed his baseball life.
Weston was a left-handed relief pitcher at Spring Arbor (Mich.) University in the last two weeks of his senior season when he decided to experiment.
The 2013 Valparaiso (Ind.) High School graduate had been propelling the baseball from a high three-quarter arm slot. On this day in Cougars bullpen in 2017, he decided to drop down. He went from three-quarter to what he calls “a quarter” — a sidearm kind of delivery.
Weston was accurate and the new approach gave the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder some deception.
“It’s a little bit like Chris Sale, but the one I most emulate is Donnie Hart of the (Baltimore) Orioles. He’s a little bit lower even.”
Weston graduated from SAU in the spring of 2017 major in recreation and leisure management and minor in Spanish and went to pitcher for the Beecher (Ill.) Muskies in the Chicago Suburban Baseball League.
A solid starter with the Muskies, he was chosen to start in the league’s all-star game and then signed for the rest of the summer to play in the Detroit Tigers organization.
In five games (three as a starter) with the Gulf Coast League Tigers West, Weston went 2-0 with a 4.50 earned run average, 12 strikeouts and two walks in 24 innings.
He was released by the Tigers in October 2017, but signed with the Chicago White Sox in April 2018.
At the start of extended spring training at the beginning of April, the White Sox were short on pitching so director of player development Chris Getz gave Weston a call and an opportunity to keep pitching as a professional.
“It’s such a cool opportunity to play the game that I love,” says Weston of the pro experience. “It’s a bonus to get paid for it.
“I get to play it at a high level with a lot of great guys.”
He made 32 appearances (all in relief) with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers and Arizona League White Sox and went 2-6 with a 4.87 ERA, 38 strikeouts and six walks in 47 1/3 innings. After a rough start at Great Falls, he had a streak where he gave up just one hit in six games. He was moved to Arizona with an influx of arms from the draft.
Weston, who turned 24 on Dec. 13 is now back in Valparaiso and juggling a busy schedule. He is working 40 or more hours a week while planning a February wedding and working out five or six days a week to get ready for spring training in March.
He is at the gym in Valparaiso most days, but occasionally drives over to the Chicago to work out with White Sox director of strength and conditioning Allen Thomas.
Right now, Weston is mostly lifting weights. He will begin throwing soon.
Weston met fiancee Amy Kanyer at Liberty Bible Church in Chesterton, Ind.
“We dated all this year long distance,” says Weston. “She’s learning quick (about the pro baseball lifestyle). She’s super supportive. I’m very appreciative of that.
“My mom did it for I don’t know how many years.”
Drew’s mother is Lisa Weston. Her husband of nearly 35 years (their anniversary is Dec. 31) is Mickey Weston, who played pro ball from 1982-96. A right-handed pitcher out of Eastern Michigan University, Mickey appeared in 23 games in the majors with the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. He went 1-2 with a 7.15 ERA, 11 strikeouts and 19 walks in 44 innings.
Since 1996, Mickey Weston has been the executive director for Unlimited Potential Inc., an organization founded by Tom Roy (now chaplain and co-head baseball coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) whose vision is to “work to reach, teach, and train baseball players for the purpose of sending them out to make disciples of Jesus who love God passionately and love others radically.”
A key Bible passage for UPI is Acts 1:8: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
“We want to get them outside of themselves,” says Mickey of the ballplayers that come in contact with UPI. “The game of baseball can make us fairly selfish folks.
“This gets the ballplayers to think of others more highly than themselves.”
He notes that former White Sox right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink is now building wells around the world with Water Mission.
Mickey has worked in partnership with missionaries in more than 40 countries. This off-season, teams are going to South Africa, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala and Germany.
As a youngster, Drew accompanied his father on some trips. His first as a professional player came last fall in Germany.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Drew. “We got to teach kids about baseball and teach kids about Jesus.”
The group went from town to town and taught baseball skills.
“We met afterwards in dugout and talked about why we love the game and why we love Jesus,” says Drew. “It’s a cool segue opportunity.”
Drew was born in Detroit in 1994. When Mickey became UPI executive director, he moved his family to the headquarters in Winona Lake. Drew grew up playing ball around Warsaw.
Drew is the third of Mickey and Weston’s four children.
Eldest daughter Erica Harrigan and husband Rob live in Indianapolis where she works for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and he in human resources for Indiana University Health.
Second daughter Kayla Aanderud is an OBGYN resident in Michigan. Her husband, Brian, is the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Youngest daughter Marissa Weston is a violinist in graduate school at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh after graduating from the Jacobs School of Music at IU. Lisa, Erica, Kayla and Drew also play instruments.
When UPI founder Roy handed over White Sox chaplain duties to Mickey Weston and Bryan Hickerson, the two made the commute from north central Indiana to Chicago. To cut down on the commute, the Westons relocated to Valparaiso in 2008 when Drew was entering the eighth grade.
It’s 50 minutes from Valpo to Guaranteed Rate Field. Through Baseball Chapel, Mickey offers services to home and away players plus the umpires. Lisa serves the wives.
Drew played at Valparaiso High School. Dave Coyle was then the Vikings head coach. Current Valparaiso head coach Todd Evans was an assistant.
The lesson that young Weston learned from Coyle was to “really persevere.”
“He had a football mentality,” Weston says of Coyle. “To overcome adversity, that was kind of his thing.”
Mickey Weston has always been his son’s personal pitching coach.
“He’d talk to me about about how I did and how I could do better,” says Drew. “It’s cool to have him in my corner, encouraging me.”
Mickey was asked to assess his son’s pitching strengths.
“It’s control and being able to change speeds,” says Mickey. “He’s able to locate really well and he has movement.
“I didn’t allow him to throw a curveball until he was about 16 and it really forced him to develop his change-up.”
Mickey’s own baseball stock rose when he developed a sinker. It was his third year in Double-A. He was pitching in the bullpen in Tulsa.
“The ball came off my finger and dropped off the table,” says Mickey. “(Former major league right-hander) Glenn Abbott was my pitching coach and had been working with me.
“Less than a year and I was in the big leagues.”
Mickey Weston was a sinker/slider pitcher who created a lot of movement and hovered between 88 and 92 mph while inducing ground balls with his right-handed deliveries.
Ambidextrous as a toddler, Drew Weston fell in love with sister Kayla’s mitt. He wore it all the time. He even slept with it. As a result, he became the third lefty in the Weston household, joining Kayla and his mother.
Drew Weston pitched from a high three-quarter arm angle for much of his career at Spring Arbor (Mich.) University. He later dropped down and is now pitching professionally in the Chicago White Sox system. (Spring Arbor University Photo)
Drew Weston, a graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) High School and Spring Arbor (Mich.) University, pitched for the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in 2018. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)
Drew Weston (left) and father Mickey Weston share a moment when Drew was with the Detroit Tigers organization in 2018.
Mickey Weston (left) visits son Drew Weston when Drew was with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox system in 2018. Former big league pitcher Mickey is executive director for Unlimited Potential Inc. and works through Baseball Chapel as chaplain for the Chicago White Sox.
Drew Weston (right) and fiancee Amy Kanyer share a moment during the 2018 baseball season. Drew pitched in the Chicago White Sox system. The couple are to wed in February 2019.
Dropping his arm angle helped Drew Weston earn a place in professional baseball. He played at Valparaiso (Ind.) High School and Spring Arbor University. First signed by the Detroit Tigers, he is now in the Chicago White Sox system. (Phrake Photography Photo)