The Obit For Wayne Weinheimer

Area Athlete Wayne Weinheimer Dies at 38

Friends and coaches fondly remember the former baseball star.

FROM: The Sacramento Bee ~
By Martin McNeal

Wayne Weinheimer had a wealth of athletic gifts and
talents.

However, those skills paled when placed against the
size and depth of his heart, according to those who
knew him best.

Weinheimer, 38, died July 10 at his family's east
Sacramento home from complications of cancer.

Athletically, he was a local legend to many.

Texas Rangers coach Matt Walbeck played with and
against Weinheimer throughout their childhoods.

"When we played (American) Legion, we were just rolling people," said Walbeck, who played with Weinheimer for Sacramento High School in the mid-1980s. "We played a game in Susanville, and Wayne hit a home run that went over the bank of lights. It was one of the longest homers I saw him hit.

"He just ran around the bases. When he got back to the dugout, we asked him, 'Did you get all of that?' And he said, 'No,' and went to sit down. That's how he was.

"But Wayne was just an incredible athlete. There wasn't anything he couldn't play. He was the best I saw at 'Asteroids' (arcade video game). Suds and Pub on 39th and J, the guy would just dominate."

Added longtime friend Andy Kingsbury: "Anything with hand-eye coordination, he was incredible. Even in tee ball, he hit the ball farther than anyone. In soccer, he had an incredible leg. He could just boom the ball."

Weinheimer went into UC Davis Medical Center in April and never recovered. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease - a type of lymphoma - in 2000 but recovered from that to return to playing and coaching for the Solano Steelheads of the Western Baseball League. But the cancer returned.

His father, Hank Weinheimer, said doctors' opinions varied on whether his son's penchant for chewing tobacco played a role in his death.

"I don't know whether it did or not," he said. "But
if that will help anyone, you certainly can mention the
possibility."

The younger Weinheimer spent his final weeks at home with family and friends but was incapable of speaking because his tongue had been removed in hopes of stopping the cancer growth. Weinheimer either would communicate by writing on a piece of paper - or his friends would read his lips.

Martin Menchacka said he visited Weinheimer during the recent NBA Finals. Menchacka said he grew up with Weinheimer, whose athletic prowess, strength and size - and 6-foot-3, 235 pounds - led to one of his nicknames, "Hammer."

Menchacka said while watching the Celtics and Lakers,
Weinheimer shocked him once again.

"I lost my mom on June 6," Menchacka said. "And we're sitting there, and he had difficulty because of his condition. And he says to me, 'I'm sorry about your mom and that I wasn't there for you.'

"Now here is this guy who is going through everything
he was going through, but he was concerned about
how I was doing. That's the kind of guy he was."

Hank Weinheimer admitted to still being a bit numb after watching his son battle his illness.

"He never gave up," the senior Weinheimer said. "He never quit. No matter what the doctors told him they needed to do, he said, 'Do it.' "

Hank Weinheimer said his son was forever "sentimental"
about Sac High.Wayne helped Sac High coach Ken
Munguia for years with the team.

"Wayne loved (baseball), and I think kids picked up on that," Munguia said. "He wasn't a guy who would
sugarcoat things. If you did a great job, he'd tell you that. If you did a (lousy) job, he'd tell you that, too, but in a respectful way."

"Wayne just loved kids," said ex-Sac High coach Kent Pickering. "And we have had some great kids at Sac High, and I love a lot of them. But he's the first one I loved like a son.

"He truly was a guy with a big heart," said Pickering, who is scheduled to speak at Weinheimer's memorial service at 1 p.m. today at Turn Verein Hall, 3349 J St. "His smile lit up the room."

Why Weinheimer, who played eight years in the minors,
never made it to the major leagues remains unanswered.

Weinheimer was a 17th-round draft choice by the Chicago Cubs in 1987. Friend and Rangers coach Walbeck went in the eighth round in the same draft.

Weinheimer, however, didn't sign with the Cubs right away. Instead, he attended Sacramento City College,
played for the school's state championship team in 1988 and then signed with the Cubs.

"Playing pro baseball isn't for everyone," Walbeck
said. "There's a lot of politics involved. Maybe Wayne was better suited to do something else, and certainly working with kids was a strength. I know physically and athletically he was capable of playing.

"I also know if it wasn't for him, my career never
would have progressed the way it did," Walbeck said.
"(Scouts) came out to see him, and I happened to be
playing, too."