To those who knew him best, no one loved baseball and Westerville more than Dave Weissman.
When he first inquired about coaching in the Westerville South High School program four years ago, coach Tim Bates immediately sensed Weissman’s tremendous passion for the sport and his community.
Weissman, who inspired many with his unwavering dedication to having a positive influence on young athletes through baseball, died Dec. 3 after a battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced form of the disease in August.
In the evening Dec. 3, mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil at South and reflected on Weissman’s life. The school’s commemorative rock was painted red with “Dave Strong” inscribed to honor Weissman, who was 52.
“No one wanted to win more than Dave, but being a (junior varsity) coach he knew developing players and young men was more important,” Bates said. “Teaching his players life lessons was as important to him as teaching baseball skills. He loved his players and they loved him.”
Bates said the community rallied around Weissman during his illness, providing meals for the family, lawn maintenance and transportation to medical appointments. Fundraisers also were held to help support the family.
Weissman’s son, Blake, saw his father’s love for baseball and the community firsthand. As a freshman and sophomore in the baseball program, Blake played for his father at the j.v. level but wasn’t given special treatment.
“He treated us all equally,” said Blake, who went on to play at the varsity level and now is a freshman at Ohio University.
Before joining the South program, Weissman coached in the Westerville Youth Baseball and Softball League. He also coached in the summer and fall baseball program at South.
“When he interviewed for the job what he said to me was, ‘I just love coaching baseball, it doesn’t matter what level I coach,’ ” Bates said. “He was very happy to be the head j.v. coach and did a good job. … He was constantly around the baseball field.”
Blake also played for his father in the youth program.
“He cared about his community,” Blake said. “Every time I came home from school, he was always talking about baseball and what he was going to speak about to the players (to) pump them up (and) influence them. He cared about them not only as players. He also cared about their lives and how to make them better.”
Adam Tischler, a senior at South and a member of the baseball program, said Weissman pushed him to succeed.
“He gave me a drive to work harder,” Tischler said. “He had a great coaching ability. He was able to push my buttons just right to make it so that I wanted to play as hard as I could. When I was playing under him, I definitely wanted to try my hardest because I was trying to prove to him and everybody else that I could be a great baseball player.”
Bates hopes to continue to honor Weissman by installing a commemorative bench in the South dugout.
Blake said he was amazed by the support the community showed his family.
“When my dad was sick he said, ‘I didn’t know this many people cared about me’ and it really touched his heart,” Blake said.
Along with Blake, Weissman is survived by his wife, Kimberly, and daughter Kelli, a 2012 graduate of South.