Ziegler reflects on passing of Weiner
D-backs reliever had great respect for how union leader carried himself
PHOENIX -- When D-backs closer Brad Ziegler first learned that Michael Weiner had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, he asked his uncle, who is a pathologist, about the disease.
Just by the look on his uncle's face, Ziegler knew that Weiner faced almost insurmountable odds.
Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, passed away Thursday after his 15-month battle.
"The fact that Michael was able to fight it for 15 months gave us a chance to talk to him," Ziegler said. "And the people who didn't know who he was, it gave them a chance to get to know him a little bit, and he could impart a lot of his wisdom and knowledge."
When Weiner would enter a clubhouse to speak with players, the respect they had for him was obvious.
"I think the biggest thing is he always made it a point to ask about your family and your personal life first before he ever talked about anything baseball related," Ziegler said. "It let you know that this is a man that has made a great living in baseball and has put a ton of time and effort into his occupation, and yet the first thing on his mind when he's talking to you is your family -- that lets you know where his priorities were. It was just the idea that family came first. After that, he would get down to baseball stuff."
And when he did, Weiner was able to quickly sort through the aspects of an idea a player might have and immediately provide feedback as to whether it was a workable solution.
"He knew instantly how it would apply to collective bargaining and what we might have to give up in a trade with the owners, and is it worth it at that point," Ziegler said. "Michael was very good about sectioning that stuff up and being very realistic."
Even if a suggestion was not something that would work, Weiner explained why in such a way that a player never felt bad about having spoken up.
"It left you feeling like, 'OK, that guy is smarter than me,' but he didn't make me feel inferior to him," Ziegler said. "He was easy to talk to, he was so personable and he was able to get his point across without making you feel like an idiot."
As he thinks about the myriad of lessons he learned during his interactions with Weiner, that more than anything stands out.
Ziegler realizes there are times that he could be better in explaining why he disagrees with someone, so that it does not come across like he feels he is superior.
"Sometimes I think there are definitely ways that people that play the game or are surrounded by the game are going to have more knowledge," Ziegler said. "But it's the way they impart that knowledge that can be so critical as to how they develop relationships with other people."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.