CHICAGO -- Friday was a sad day for Major Leaguers trying to cope with the passing of Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Pitcher Carlos Villanueva, an active member of the MLBPA, called it a "difficult day."
"It was a very difficult day, not only for me but for all of us who had the pleasure of spending time with Michael," Villanueva said on Friday. "All I can say about Michael is what a wonderful leader he was to us, how he genuinely cared about us and, even when he was battling his illness, how he was there almost every day at the office making sure that we were OK."
Weiner lost his 15-month battle with brain cancer on Thursday. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in August 2012 but continued to serve the players and provide leadership and counsel to the MLBPA staff. He was 51.
"He was not only our leader but he was family, because only someone who is family could dedicate their life to us the way he did," Villanueva said.
Villanueva is the only non-American-born player on the MLBPA board, and he is involved with the Latin players.
"From a Latin player point of view, he fought for us, he made sure that we got fair treatment above all," Villanueva said from his home in the Dominican Republic. "Michael always had his calm demeanor, worked his magic and made us feel that we mattered.
"He showed me personally to not only care about the Latin players, but to care and love all of our members equally, that it is never about the individual, it's about what we do now, and how that will affect in a positive way the well being of our future members. He will stay with us forever, and we will never have anybody like him."
Weiner joined the MLBPA as counsel in 1988, at the age of 26, and worked his way up before being named executive director in December 2009.
Tony Clark will take over as the union's executive director.
"All I can hope is that we continue to carry ourselves in a way that would make him proud, and I'm sure guys like Tony, who worked with him very closely, will continue to lead us in the right direction," Villanueva said.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo acknowledged Weiner's passing on Twitter, saying, "It's sad to see such a good man's life be taken by cancer! Thank you for everything you have done! Rest in peace Michael Weiner!"
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.