About 20 minutes after Kokomo’s T.J. Weir told his agent he’d decided to retire, the Colorado Rockies organization reached out to him and offered him a spot. He’d been released by the San Diego Padres organization earlier in June and Colorado was offering him a second chance.
In the end, he didn’t take the opportunity, but it felt good to get the call.
He’d made his mind up and announced his retirement. In the hours and days that followed, a whole lifetime of people that had been with him on the way up in baseball reached out to offer their support when the journey ended.
That felt really good too.
“I’ve gotten an unbelievable amount of support and well wishes from people in Kokomo,” Weir said. “I’m super grateful for everybody that’s kept up with my career. The amount of people that reached out to me, whether it was a text, or call, or Facebook message that said congratulations ... the support I had throughout my career and having to make the toughest decision I’ve made to hang ‘em up, it’s unbelievable.”
Weir announced his retirement on June 22. Growing up he played with Replay and Eriks Chevrolet at UCT. He was a Central Indiana King, an Indiana Bull and a Kokomo Wildkat before he went off to play at Ball State. Weir was in his fifth season of minor league ball when he was released.
Stalling out as a starting pitcher in Double A this season — after finding more success as a reliever in earlier seasons — he’d been pondering what to do.
“It was by far the toughest decision I’ve ever made,” Weir said. “It’s all I’ve ever known really. I went to high school and college, but it was sports 24/7. Three sports in high school, and college baseball consumes your life.”
Playing professionally was even more all-encompassing. Even when playing home games the work day is frequently 12 hours long. And when on the road, there’s only baseball. He’d worked his whole life to be in that situation.
“I get kind of sentimental about things,” Weir said, noting support from family and friends as he grew up and kept progressing in baseball. “It was hard to close that chapter. There’s just so much that’s gone into my career and to put an end to that was pretty tough.”
LIFE IN THE MINORS
Starting his minor league journey in 2014, he worked his way up to the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas last year. He had his best success on the way up as a reliever, but the Padres organization went back and forth between trying him as a starter, or out of the bullpen.
Weir had a 2.89 ERA over Double A and Triple A last year, with just one start in 44 appearances. This year he had an ERA of 6.10. After nine games this year — all starts — he was released.
Just like how his on-field career had ups and downs but it was a thrill to be a part of, life in the minors was exciting but also taxing.
“Everything about it was awesome,” Weir said. “The lifestyle was really tough, especially when you’re married and your wife is traveling with you, or at times leaving her back home. Other than that, everything about it was unbelievable.
“I made some really good friends ... I’ve played with and against people that I think will become Hall of Famers. Right now, it’s tough because when I see highlights on TV ... every other highlight I have a connection. I played with or against those people. That’s probably the coolest thing is if I made a list of the big-name people I’ve come across ... it’s a pretty crazy list.”
At the top of that list is Houston infielder Alex Bregman. Weir faced him in Double A and said Bregman was the toughest person to get out he’d faced. Now in the bigs, Bregman helped the Astros win the 2017 World Series and was the MVP of the 2018 All-Star game.
The downside is how time consuming it was, and how hard it was to navigate the first years of married life with wife Kati.
“The travel’s tough,” Weir said. “The late-night bus rides, the 4 a.m. wake-up calls to get to the airport when your flight is at 5:45 in the morning, after playing [a night game]. Basically living out of a suitcase forever pretty much other than the offseason, when you’re home for about five months.”
As an example, Weir said that when he and Kati married in 2017, she started traveling with him. Since then, they’ve lived short stints in:
El Paso, Texas.
El Paso again.
“It’s like you’re constantly on the go and it’s hard to find any kind of structure in that life,” Weir said. “You know what you’re getting into, but looking back it’s crazy to think about how we always were on the move.”
MAKING A DECISION
Even before he was released, Weir had been contemplating retiring from baseball after the season ended. Once he made his decision, he was almost lured back.
Upon being released, his agent was calling teams looking for openings, but it’s hard to find an opening in the middle of the season. Weir didn’t like feeling like a vulture, waiting for another pitcher to get injured or released. While he wasn’t hearing from MLB organizations, independent teams reached out to him.
“I decided that wasn’t the route I wanted to go,” Weir said. “I called my agent and said ‘I’m not going to play independent ball, I’ve given everything I’ve got.’ He said ‘I support you. It’s a tough decision, but you’ve had a good run.’
“And about 20 minutes after I made my decision the Colorado Rockies called and said, ‘We’ve got a spot for you.’”
That meant he had to go through the thought process again.
“I originally told them yes, and then I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach like, ‘Is this what I really want to keep doing?’ My wife would be back in Indiana and I’d be on the other side of the country again. If I’m not 100 percent into this, I’m taking opportunities away from someone else.
“For the first time in my life, [I was] thinking about what my life would be like without baseball and that was starting to sound nice.”
Weir is now in Muncie, where Kati, a former Ball State volleyball player, is about to embark on her first season as a head coach after serving as an assistant at Western last year.
“This is her first year starting at Wapahani High School. She’ll be the head volleyball coach there,” Weir said. “She’s all fired up about starting that, so we’ll be in Muncie.
“Her first season, it’s going to be tough for her and it’s going to be stressful and I’m happy I’m going to be here for it. It works out for us as a family.”
Weir has a degree in finance at Ball State and is looking for work in that field, planning for a long-term career, not a constant string of moves.
Finally free in the summer, Weir celebrated the Fourth of July with family this year for the first time since his journey started.
“Kati and I talked about it all the time [when I was in the minors] that what’s normal for other people isn’t normal for us,” Weir said. “Like being able to eat dinner every night, enjoying a Saturday when you’re not working and not traveling. We look forward to living what most people think of as a normal life.”
And all the good times that are behind him chronologically, are still with him.
“When you look back on it, I’ll remember I got released, and it felt good to be able to have an opportunity to go to another team and go out on my own terms, but when I look back on it ... I won’t even think about how it ended, I’ll think about everything that went into it and all those good things.”