By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Somewhere back in Ohio, in Andy Weber’s home, is the trumpet that played a prominent role in his childhood. That’s the instrument Weber played — and played well — growing up in Aurora, a small city about 30 miles southeast of Cleveland.
His father is a longtime violinist in the Cleveland Orchestra, and his mother teaches violin, so Weber comes by his aptitude for music naturally. By his sophomore year at Aurora High School, however, Weber decided a change was in order.
“I told my dad I didn’t want to be in the band any more,” he recalled.
Weber didn’t enjoy marching on the field during football games when his buddies were up in the stands. “I hated being in the marching band,” Weber said, smiling.
He loved music, though, and he later taught himself to play violin and guitar. He’s “not bad” on the guitar, Weber said, but he’s better known at the University of Virginia for his work on the diamond.
A 6-1, 190-pound sophomore, Weber has started the past nine games at second base for the 16th-ranked UVA baseball team. With a .320 batting average, he’s fifth on the team.
“He’s showing that he’s a really good defensive second baseman, and he’s certainly swinging the bat well for us,” UVA head coach Brian O’Connor said Wednesday night after his team completed a midweek sweep of Towson at Davenport Field.
In the Cavaliers’ 3-2 win over the Tigers on Tuesday, Weber went 1 for 3 at the plate. In the Wahoos’ 8-4 victory on Wednesday, he was 1 for 2, with two RBI. In the top of the ninth inning, he contributed a defensive gem, diving to his left to stop a sharply hit grounder and then throwing out the runner at first.
As a freshman last season, Weber played in 33 games, starting 26 at third base. But he’s more comfortable at second base.
“It’s just been something I’ve been used to forever,” Weber said. “In high school my buddy played shortstop and I played second, that’s just how it always was.”
“So the only opportunity last year was really at third base,” O’Connor said Wednesday night.
With Pinero gone, this “year’s a little different,” O’Connor noted.
In the fall, Weber worked mostly at second base, as the coaches tried to figure out “what the situation was in the middle of our infield — whether Ernie was going to move over to shortstop or not,” O’Connor said.
Freshman Cayman Richardson started eight games at short early this season, but Clement, a versatile junior, has taken over at that spot, and O’Connor likes what he sees from his primary double-play combination.
“Andy Weber’s best at second base. I think he’s really swinging the bat well and aggressively for us. So to put what I feel are the best guys on the field at this point in time, it was [Weber at second] and Ernie over [at short].”
His chemistry with Clement is good, Weber said, and getting better every day.
“He helped me out a lot last year,” Weber said, “and then in the fall we worked a little bit together. On and off the field, it’s fun to be around him, and he’s a good teacher.”
Weber, who hit .269 in 2016, played well at third base, but his classmate Justin Novak supplanted him there in the middle of the season.
“I plugged [Novak] in there, and he really sparked us,” O’Connor said.
That Weber has made an easy transition to second base at UVA should not be a surprise.
“That’s what he played in high school,” O’Connor said. “And when you play that side of the field, that side of the infield, sometimes it can be a challenge to move to the other side of the infield, and he just appears to be a lot more comfortable. And I love his range there.”
After the Cavaliers’ season ended last year, Weber headed north to Ontario, Canada, where he played for the Thunder Bay Border Cats in the Northwoods League.
“It was a great environment up there,” said Weber, who hit .309 for the Border Cats.
He played in a lot of games — 57 — and sat through a lot of long bus trips. The closest Northwoods opponent, the Duluth (Minn.) Huskies, was a four-hour drive each way from Thunder Bay. Waterloo (Iowa) was 12 hours each way, Weber said.
He won’t have to travel great distances again anytime soon. The Cavaliers are in the midst of a stretch in which they’ll play 14 of 15 games at Davenport Field.
Next up for Virginia (17-5, 2-4) is its first ACC home series, against Duke (12-11, 3-3). The Cavaliers host the Blue Devils at 4 p.m. Friday, at 1 p.m. Saturday, and at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“You want to win your home [series],” Weber said. “It’s tough to win on the road, so you have to attack the opportunity to win at home.”
UVA dropped its first two ACC series, losing two of three games at North Carolina and two of three at Clemson.
Even so, O’Connor said, “I don’t put any more emphasis on this [series]. We’ve got 10 of these weekends. Certainly, if you want to win the league in the regular season, which we would love to do, if you don’t start winning two out of three on weekends then you’re not going to win the league. But I don’t get consumed with that.
“There’s been many years that we’ve had to rally in the back half of the ACC season to finish in a good position.”
He’s more concerned, O’Connor said, with how the Cavaliers are playing. “I think our better days are ahead of us, and I think that’s tied to solidifying consistency in our starting pitching.”
Lynch, incidentally, is the most talented guitarist in the program, according to Weber. “He shreds. He’s unreal.”