Leadership

Baseball’s Michael Weiner: A Leader’s Last At-Bat

A reflection on Michael Weiner, a pro baseball executive director whose unflinchingly public battle with cancer came to define his life's work.

A reflection on Michael Weiner, a pro baseball executive director whose unflinchingly public battle with cancer came to define his life’s work.

Sometimes, it’s the leadership skills we show when we’re behind in the count that define us.

Whether through organizational troubles or medical tribulations, the challenges can strengthen us and prove exactly what we can do when life is throwing us nothing but curveballs.

Michael was a courageous human being, and the final year of his remarkable life inspired so many people in our profession.

Michael Weiner was a man who dealt with a number of curveballs in the last year and a half of his life, but his motivation never wavered, even as his health faded.

On Thursday, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) executive director lost his long battle with inoperable brain cancer—a battle often fought in the public eye.

Weiner, who had led the players’ union since 2009, made an impression on many by continuing to lead despite clearly suffering from a terminal illness. As Associations Now reported in July, Weiner played an active and calming role in often-contentious negotiations with the league while working on a contingency plan for his successor—despite partial paralysis and dependence on a wheelchair. From salaries to steroids, he influenced discussions on issues important to both the players and the league.

And the union’s members—many of them household names—noticed the above-and-beyond nature of his life’s work.

“It’s tough to see him like that but, at the same time, he’s happy. He doesn’t want the sympathy, and he still wants to work,” Detroit Tigers star Torii Hunter said of Weiner in a July Associated Press story.

While the union leader continued to be active in his position until his death, he missed this year’s World Series due to his illness, though he watched from home.

“Michael was a courageous human being, and the final year of his remarkable life inspired so many people in our profession,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Weiner, survived by a wife and three daughters, was 51.

Weiner shown receiving Voice's Against Brain Cancer's Vision of Hope Award in 2012. (photo via MLBPA's Facebook page)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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