Bright smiles of Weiss' son put glamour, money in shade


DENVER -- Daddy ran onto the field for his first All-Star Game, and sitting on his mommy's lap, Brody Weiss looked like the happiest, healthiest little boy in the world.

His mother's eyes moistened as his father received one of the loudest ovations during pre-game introductions. Brody, 3 1/2 , bounced excitedly, a kid with blond hair and a big smile, looking so alive.

The fans cheered his father as a former Rockie, yes. But little did Brody know, they were cheering for him, too, for what his family had endured.

It was every parent's worst nightmare, a day trip to a water park that resulted in an innocent child hospitalized with a deadly bacterial infection.

It happened to Brody.

It happened to Walt and Terri Weiss.

"I still feel like I'm in the middle of it all," the Atlanta shortstop said before last night's game. "We went from the hospital to here, basically. There hasn't been a whole lot of time to really even realize what's going on."

Maybe now they can start reflecting. It's all behind them. It will never be behind them. But last night, Daddy was playing and Brody was watching, and everything seemed right with the world.

Walt, 34, celebrated his first All-Star appearance by going 2-for-3, hitting an opposite-field single and scoring in the third inning and lining an RBI single in the fourth.

Terri had tears in the eyes during the introductions. But she cheered enthusiastically once the game began, screaming, "Drop! Drop!" when Walt hit his bloop single in the third.

Weiss played six innings at shortstop for the National League. It was a typically wild game at Coors, a little baseball, a little pinball, but for all the talk of home runs, no story hit home like Brody Weiss'.

"It was super having him here -- beyond expectations," Walt told NBC's Jim Gray in the National League dugout. "We didn't think we'd get him here."

So many fathers brought their sons to the game -- Ken Griffey, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, David Wells. The kids were all over the clubhouses, wearing their father's jerseys, big-leaguing it.

And then there was Brody.

He never would have made it to Denver if not for the intervention of Colorado owner Jerry McMorris, who sent his private plane to Atlanta for the Weisses -- Brody was too weak to fly commercial.

And he never would have made it if he wasn't a born fighter.

"He's our most likely to get into trouble as we move along," Weiss said. "Maybe that helped him come back. As soon as he turned the corner, he came storming back."

Only a month ago, all was right with the Weisses. But on June 11, just two days after the family reunited for the summer, Brody swallowed contaminated water in a kiddie pool, and became infected with E. coli bacteria.

Three days later, the nightmare began.

A 103-degree fever, headaches and diarrhea at first. Then, bleeding in his brain, fluid in his lungs, an enlarged heart, total kidney failure. A 3-year-old boy, hooked up to a dialysis machine.

At that point, there was no way of knowing how the illness would affect Brody. He could have died. He could have suffered brain damage. Or, he simply could have gotten very sick, very weak, then recovered fully.

Brody fell into the last category.

He left the hospital last Thursday, two weeks ahead of schedule.

"We're pretty sure, almost positive, that the worst is behind him," Weiss said. "It's just a matter now of building him back up. He was real sick for a while. It's going to take a while before he's back to where he was. But he's past the danger zone."

The Weiss' oldest son, Blake, 11, tested negative for E. coli -- he had been riding the adult water slides. Their youngest son, Bo, 11 months, tested positive, but developed nothing more than diarrhea within the nine-day incubation period.

So, it's over, and yet it's not. Weiss seemed almost numb during the All-Star festivities, answering every reporter's question, yet seeming almost detached from the experience. His teammate, Andres Galarraga said: "It's like he's not there."

Well, he was there last night, and he'll be there for the Braves in the second half. Weiss, batting .312 with no home runs and 18 RBIs, is enjoying the best season of his 12-year career.

What kept him going?

"First of all, my faith," he said. "Our family and friends have been real supportive. A lot of people have reached out to us. It's been great for us, great for Brody. He's getting to open up gifts like it's Christmas again. It's really been uplifting for him."

Last night was the story's happy ending, a made-for-Hollywood finale. But no one should forget what happened here. Weiss is LTC major leaguer earning $3 million, but for 10 horrifying days, he was as human as the rest of us, a scared parent, praying for his son's life.

Weiss said he was "blown away" by the national response. He thanked reporters for their inquiries, thanked the entire country for its support.

"Most important, I hope it creates a certain awareness for what's going on," Weiss said. "This stuff gets a lot of headlines when there are outbreaks. But as we've learned, there are a lot of isolated cases you never hear about.

"We heard some terrible stories from other people who were dealing with this. It's a shame my son has gotten the attention. There are still some kids back in the hospital in Atlanta fighting for their lives."

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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