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D-backs draftee Weiss motivated by tragedy

MLB.com

PHOENIX -- The moment was surreal, almost like a video game. Ryan Weiss saw his last name -- the one he passionately plays and lives for -- flash across the screen when the D-backs selected him in the fourth round of Tuesday's portion of the MLB Draft.

Draft Tracker: Follow every D-backs Draft pick

PHOENIX -- The moment was surreal, almost like a video game. Ryan Weiss saw his last name -- the one he passionately plays and lives for -- flash across the screen when the D-backs selected him in the fourth round of Tuesday's portion of the MLB Draft.

Draft Tracker: Follow every D-backs Draft pick

"It was a dream come true," Weiss, a right-hander from Wright State, said.

Most draftees stand and hug their parents in that moment. Not Weiss. He couldn't. His father committed suicide six years ago and his mother died of a heart attack about five months ago.

But he's been able to take tragedy -- in both instances -- and let it shape him to be the best he can. It's given him a unique perspective. Instead of allowing heartbreak to deter him, he's used it as motivation.

"Truthfully, it's just allowed me to realize there's bigger things in life than whatever you're doing in the moment," he said.

Wright State coach Jeff Mercer recalled the first time he ever met Weiss, which was three weeks before Weiss' freshman year of college. Mercer and Weiss spoke after the pitcher spun a gem in a summer game.

Mercer didn't even know Weiss' father had passed away. He just saw a young, competitive kid who needed an opportunity.

"This dude wanted to be good so bad that, at the time, you could tell it was an obsessive drive," Mercer said. "It was different."

Little did he know.

"Once my dad passed away, I was inspired, I was determined and I was dedicated because I wanted to make his name greater than it already was," Weiss said. "That's what I set out to do and that's what I'm here for."

Mercer is used to talking to high schoolers who are focused on video games, girls and friends. Weiss, on the other hand, spoke like a "30-year-old man hellbent on being special." At the time, Mercer didn't know why.

When Mercer learned of Weiss' father, he understood the motivation. Why Weiss had a firmness in his voice as he spoke of his career aspirations. Why playing in the bigs seemed like more of a plan than a fleeting dream.

Always searching to turn unfortunate events into motivation, Weiss said, is something great athletes can do. Mercer once thought Weiss couldn't work any harder. Then his mom passed away.

"Ryan's mind works like everything is working in his favor to help him reach his goal," Mercer said. "Things can go badly, but it's not bad because actually, he thinks, 'This is going to make me stronger so I can get where I want to go.' It's such a special mindset."

Weiss said the rabid work ethic comes from everything he's been through. He knows that if he stays the course, he'll be just fine.

He relishes hard work.

"The success only lasts, what, about 24 hours? So the work is everything else. Enjoy work so you can enjoy the success," Weiss said.

Mercer doesn't know what's in store for Weiss. He just knows that because of his mindset, he will be as successful as his physical ability possibly allows.

That attitude is how a former Wright State walk-on who has dealt with so much tragedy just achieved a lifelong dream and now has the opportunity to continue making his mark on the sport.

"Everything happens for a reason, everything pans out the way it's supposed to, and at the end of the day, wherever you're at is where God wants you," Weiss said.

Justin Toscano is a reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix.

Arizona Diamondbacks