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Wieland's spirit shines on rainy day

Former GHS star offers story of courage

June 28, 2011

Bob Wieland was particularly disappointed when Greenfield's scheduled baseball game against Greendale was washed out by rain and wet grounds on June 21.

The 1964 Greenfield High School graduate was not only hoping to watch the contest - he was also looking forward to going out onto the Hustlin' Hawks' new field, which is named in his honor.

"I wanted to take batting practice today," Wieland said during a rededication ceremony for the field. "I think I can still jack one out of this park."

No one in the crowd of about 100 listening to him in the Greenfield High School auditorium had any doubts.

After all, this was the man who lost both legs during the Vietnam War, yet later walked across America on his hands, bicycled across the country twice and competed in a number of marathons and the grueling Ironman race in Hawaii.

Many years ago, there was a popular book titled, "Profiles in Courage," and Wieland would have made the ultimate subject for it.

A real hero for many

That's why Greenfield coach Lee Kleszczynski arranged for Wieland to spend about a half hour with the Greenfield players last week.

"He's an inspiration to these ballplayers, just seeing him and hearing his story," Kleszczynski said. "If they ever face adversity, or if they ever face a problem, they look back and say, 'Hey, this guy found a way to get this done, to get around his troubles, so I can too.'

"I'm so glad that we were able to get him here for this rededication because stories like this get kind of washed away. They saw a real-life story right here, and it's great that they know this guy came through the same halls that they did."

Senior Evan Greco was one of those who learned and benefitted from meeting the indomitable Wieland.

"He really made us want to get the best out of everything," Greco said. "It was a great experience. He showed us how much we had and how much we can do with it. This will help us become a better team. We're more together now."

Wieland's appearance seemed to pay immediate dividends, as the Hawks won their final two games last week, blanking Pewaukee, 11-0, on Friday and tipping Greendale, 3-2, on Saturday in the makeup from June 21.

"I've tried to set very high standards for the athletic teams here," Wieland said. "I'm going to continue to set high standards. It was just great to meet the various ballplayers today. They were very inspired and moved by what I had to share with them."

"It's too soon to quit"

Wieland also shared his admirable philosophies of life with the audience at the rededication, which included his parents Bill and Ida, who have lived in Greenfield since 1958, as well as several people in military wear.

"I'm fired up," said Wieland, who was a standout in football, basketball, track and field and baseball during his four years at Greenfield. "I loved being a Hawk. I learned a lot of values and principles that I still carry on in my life. One saying I remember is 'It's too soon to quit as long as there is time on the clock.'"

He took a moment to remember his high school coach, fellow Greenfield legend Frank Benevides, who recently suffered a series of minor strokes and is currently in a nursing home near Atlanta.

"I wish he could have been here," Wieland said.

Later, he joked about the real reason behind the postponement of that day's game with Greendale.

"When (the Panthers) heard they would have to play on Bob Wieland Field, they became frightened," he said with a smile. "And they didn't want to play." He quickly added, "We have had a great rivalry with Greendale for many years and will for many more."

Wieland also managed to make light of the unfortunate circumstance of the weather interfering with the game and forcing the ceremonies to be held indoors.

"You players are fortunate to be playing summer baseball," he said. "In my time, we played in the spring, and we had to shovel snow before our games. This rain is unfortunate, but it's better than snow."

Ready to take a Dream Ride

Wieland made all these comments while standing near a new sign that reads, "Welcome to Bob Wieland Field, Home of the Hustlin' Hawks."

That sign, which also includes the Hawks' logo and two baseballs with bats crossed in front of them, will soon be installed on the new field.

"I hope that every time these players step onto that field, they will give a little extra," Wieland said. "That's what my life has been about, going the extra mile to help people."

He will do that again in July by taking part in a 7,000-mile charity bicycle ride from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. called Dream Ride 3. He is accepting $5 donations for peace officers, firefighters, wounded veterans and youth.

"I will give it my best shot and will carry Greenfield logos across the country," he said.

Kleszczynski marveled at Wieland's continuing list of accomplishments.

"If you were to hear about the things that he does, you would think, 'OK (a lot of) people compete in marathons and complete triathlons,'" the coach said. "If you see him face to face, though, you start asking your own self, 'What do I do?'"

For his part, Wieland admitted he has enjoyed a remarkable life and added: "And more on the way."

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