SUGAR LAND, Texas – As a former first-round draft pick, Courtney Hawkins has seen a lot of coaches throw batting practice, and Mike Weatherford is top-notch.
“The fact that he can throw with both hands is absolutely amazing. He’ll throw strikes wherever you want it, he learns your routine and learns what you want,” said Hawkins. “He catches bullpens for a lot of the pitchers.”
Hawkins met Weatherford during a workout near Dallas a few months ago. A group of Major League Baseball players and laid-off minor league players were training together to stay in shape during the pandemic, and Weatherford was throwing. Hawkins was so impressed with him, he suggested adding him to the Sugar Land Skeeters staff.
“He caters to each guy differently. If one guy likes something a little firmer, harder, softer, whatever it might be and whatever you want, he’ll work towards it.”
But.. why is Weatherford so good at B.P. and catching?
“It was a snow skiing accident. I hit a patch of ice and I got going backwards,” said the 50-year-old coach. “I rumbled, stumbled, fell all the way down the rest of the hill and next thing I know I woke up in a hospital in Denver.”
Partially paralyzed at 19 years old, a doctor told him he would never walk again.
“I had some choice words for him,” said a smiling Weatherford.
He had to re-learn everything.
“Learning how to do everything again is humbling,” said Weatherford.
Still, his baseball career at Oklahoma University was clearly over, so he set his sights on coaching. Mike figured if he had to train his brain to do it all again, he may as well train both arms.
“So I thought, ‘let me just try both,' so now I can kick with both feet, write with both hands, throw with both arms,” explained Weatherford.
He’s so skilled and consistent during batting practice that he’s had stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Texas Rangers helping to prepare them for games. He still works with the Rangers on an as-needed basis and has gone so far as to take videos of himself pitching from each side to ensure his throws from each arm are identical.
It’s paid off.
“Shin Soo-Choo was the first one to notice that I throw exactly the same motion left-handed that I do right-handed,” explained Weatherford.
Throughout his part-time gigs with MLB teams, he’s worked with some of the best — Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Joey Gallo, and more.
Weatherford has found joy in teaching and coaching baseball at Denton Guyer High School near Dallas. Unsurprisingly, he earned two football state championship rings as their scout team quarterback because of his arm abilities and knack for reading defenses.
His perfect pitch and his positive attitude make him irreplaceable.
“My motto to all of them, when they go, ‘hey Mike thanks for catching, thanks for throwing,‘ it’s like.. ‘hey, whatever it takes,‘” said Weatherford. “‘Whatever it takes to get you guys to the next level, let’s do it, I’m all in.‘”
And you can guess where that mindset came from.
“When I was rehabbing the injury, it was basically whatever it took is what was going to need to happen to get this done.”