Coach Birmingham, Lobos reminisce over Jackson Weller during press conference - Albuquerque Journal

Coach Birmingham, Lobos reminisce over Jackson Weller during press conference

UNM baseball coach Ray Birmingham paused to wipe away tears as his voice cracked with emotion during a press conference on Monday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Emotions remained raw at the University of New Mexico athletic department Monday as student-athletes, coaches and administrators struggled to cope with the death of baseball player Jackson Weller.

UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez, baseball coach Ray Birmingham and sophomore outfielder Brayden Merritt spoke at a media conference, sharing memories of Weller and his impact on baseball players and coaches. Weller, 23, was fatally shot early Saturday morning in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill area and the loss hit those who knew him hard.

“Jackson Weller was one of the classiest kids I’ve ever coached,” Birmingham said, pausing to wipe away tears as his voice cracked with emotion. “It’s the first time in 42 years I’ve lost a player on my watch.”

Nuñez declined to discuss details of Weller’s death, gun violence in Albuquerque or its potential impact on UNM athletics and recruiting. He called the shooting “a senseless act of violence,” but cited the ongoing investigation of Saturday’s incident and said UNM is cooperating with authorities.

“We understand what’s going on in the city,” Nuñez said, “but this is not the time for those discussions. Today is an opportunity to speak about Jackson Weller and how much he meant to our baseball team and the community.”

Weller was in his first year at UNM after transferring from Arizona’s Gateway Community College. A native of Keller, Texas, Weller played summer baseball with the Farmington Frackers and participated in the Lobos’ fall practice season. The right-handed pitcher then underwent surgery to address restricted blood flow to his pitching arm. He was not part of this season’s active roster but intended to return to action next fall, Birmingham said.

UNM’s Jackson Weller pitches during a Cherry-Silver game this past fall. (Courtesy of UNM Athletics)

“He was a fierce competitor and he stayed upbeat and positive through surgery and rehab,” Birmingham said. “Off the field, though, he was the kindest, most respectful young man you’ve ever met. Jackson lit up a room when he came in.”

Merritt recalled Weller going far out of his way to support his teammates despite being unable to play this season.

“He didn’t have to be at games because he was injured,” Merritt said, “but he was at every single one, cheering us on. We started the season in Arizona and Jackson drove out there to be front and center. That’s just who he was. I never saw that kid mad.”

Nuñez, Birmingham and the rest of the Lobos held a private memorial Sunday morning at the team’s clubhouse facility. Weller’s father, Pat, traveled from Texas to attend.

“It went on for quite some time and it was very moving,” Birmingham said. “A lot of our players got up and spoke, told stories about Jackson. It gave his father a chance to hear how special his son was and what he meant to the team and our Lobo community.”

Nuñez said staff counselors were made available Saturday through Monday to baseball players and other student-athletes impacted by Weller’s death. Merritt said the team has pulled together since news of the shooting came out.

“We’re still trying to make sense of it,” Merritt said, “but we’ve all been together the last 48 hours to support each other. It’s been tough.”

Several baseball players attended Monday’s media conference and they exchanged hugs and handshakes with other attendees as they filed out of Dreamstyle Arena’s Pete McDavid Lounge. Weller’s funeral is scheduled for May 13 in Texas. Birmingham said he and several UNM players will attend.

The Lobos postponed home games against Air Force on Saturday and Sunday after learning of Weller’s death. They will return to action Friday, hosting UNLV in the season’s final home series, and Merritt said Weller will be on everyone’s minds.

“The rest of the season is dedicated to him,” Merritt said, “the rest of our lives are dedicated to him. But this is bigger than the game of baseball. We lost a family member.”

NOTE: Weller’s funeral is scheduled for May 13 at 1 p.m. at the Good Shepard Catholic Church in Colleyville, Texas. His family requests any donations be made through the Children’s Cancer Fund of New Mexico. Online giving is available at www.ccfnm.org.

A memorial has been placed outside of the night club Imbibe in Nob Hill for UNM baseball player Jackson Weller, who was fatally shot early Saturday morning near the intersection of Richmond and Central Avenue. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Lobos take Wyoming to the wire, lose by 2
ABQnews Seeker
UNM got 25 points from Jay ... UNM got 25 points from Jay Allen-Tovar and 22 from Jamal Mashburn Jr., but it wasn't enough to upset the Wyoming Cowboys in a ...
2
Garvey tells Lobos their upward journey can begin here, ...
Baseball
When Steve Garvey first came to ... When Steve Garvey first came to Albuquerque in 1969 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in just his second ...
3
Aztecs take final game of series
Baseball
Saturday's storyline started two years ago ... Saturday's storyline started two years ago for the University of New Mexico baseball team. The Lobos couldn't get pitcher Garrett Hill in a recruiting ...
4
Fregosi, Lobo All-American and major leaguer's son, dies at ...
Baseball
Jim Fregosi Jr., a baseball All-American ... Jim Fregosi Jr., a baseball All-American at New Mexico in 1985 and a special assistant in the Kansas City Royals' front office has died. ...
5
Albuquerque's Jordan Pacheco coming home as Isotopes hitting coach
ABQnews Seeker
Former Colorado Rockies player Jordan Pacheco, ... Former Colorado Rockies player Jordan Pacheco, the La Cueva High and University of New Mexico graduate, is returning to Albuquerque as the hitting coach ...
6
Trial begins in 2019 fatal shooting of UNM athlete
ABQnews Seeker
Baseball player racially harassed shooter, lawyer ... Baseball player racially harassed shooter, lawyer tells jurors
7
Locals key to roster building
Baseball
UNM baseballLocals key to roster buildingBy ... UNM baseballLocals key to roster buildingBy Ken Sickenger Journal Staff Writer First-year UNM baseba ...
8
Pieces to the puzzle coming together for Brown
Baseball
Four months into his tenure as ... Four months into his tenure as University of New Mexico baseball coach, the shelves in Tod BrownR ...
9
Former Lobo, Ram Gouldsmith dies after drowning
Baseball
Garrett Gouldsmith, a former University of ... Garrett Gouldsmith, a former University of New Mexico and Rio Rancho High baseball player, died Sunday after drowning at Donner Lake in northeast California, ...