Desire To Learn Drives Weinstein
Jerry Weinstein has seen it all.
Over the past 50-plus years, he has successfully coached baseball in high school, junior college, summer college leagues, NCAA Division I, the minor leagues, the major leagues and international competitions such as the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.
There are few possible scenarios on a baseball diamond he hasn’t seen. There are very few details he hasn’t coached. If you need groundskeeping tips on properly prepping an infield, he’s done that, too.
“Some think of him as a catching guy. Some think of him as a pitching guy. Some think of him as a hitting guy. He can coach any position on the field as well as anyone,” said Mariners farm director Andy McKay, who played for Weinstein at Sacramento City JC, then served as an assistant coach under Weinstein and eventually took over the program when Weinstein left for a job in pro ball.
But the coach who has seen it all has a secret weapon. He knows he doesn’t know it all, and he approaches every day as if he doesn’t know enough. When it comes to baseball, he attacks unanswered questions now the same way he did when he was coaching UCLA’s freshman team in the mid-1960s.
“My statement has always been: The more you know, the less you know,” Weinstein said. “You will never have all the answers. You have to keep reaching and you have to be willing to adapt.”
The desire to teach others drives Weinstein. But the belief that he can go to bed knowing more about the game than when he woke up fuels him every day.
“He’s the best learner I’ve ever met,” McKay said. “When you combine his ability to learn with his body of experience, it’s hard to compete against. No matter what he’s accomplished, he’s never used that as a crutch.”
“I think you see that with the best guys. They don’t ever feel like they have all the answers. And they feel they need to stay current,” said Bill Geivett, who played for Weinstein at Sacramento City and eventually hired him for roles with the Dodgers and Rockies.
These days, Weinstein works for the Rockies as an assistant to scouting and player development. It’s a role that allows the club to use his ability to coach everything and see everything. But he’s also a resource for baseball coaches and players around the game. He’s written multiple books, including “Coaching Catchers” and “Baseball Coach’s Survival Guide.” He speaks at coaching clinics and conventions and he will manage the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League next summer, a role he’s filled before.
TO WATCH JERRY WEINSTEIN WANDER THROUGH THE HALLS OF A COACHING CONVENTION IS TO WATCH A MAN IN HIS ELEMENT. Often he has a small entourage of coaches following along because they know he likely will pass along some useful nuggets of information.
But Weinstein is making it a two- way conversation. When he agrees to speak at a convention, he’s already checked out who else will be attending. Some may come to hear him speak, but he’s coming so he can learn from the other speakers.
Weinstein’s baseball curiosity knows no bounds. He always wants to know about new technology, new techniques and new approaches to get the best out of players.
“It’s really hard to do justice to the energy he still has,” McKay said. “In 2019, my guess is he’ll learn more about the game of baseball than anyone else in baseball, (even) at his age with all he has accomplished”.
As McKay noted, Weinstein’s Sacramento City teams were training with weighted balls in the early 1990s. Sports psychologist Ken Ravizza worked with his Sac City teams back before such techniques were common.
“Being a young coach for him, I didn’t understand what I had access to that no one else had access to. I was sitting at a desk 10 feet from him,” McKay said. “Whenever there was a new computer program, his reputation was so vast in the late 1980s and early 1990s that I had access to these things before they hit the market. He was giving them feedback to improve the product.”
Ask Weinstein a question about some of the techniques about catching and you may end up in a discussion about the feasibility of virtual reality headsets as a teaching tool in baseball. He came up through baseball at a time when RBIs were the gold standard, but he’s as conversant on analytics and technology as pretty much any coach one can meet.
“This is an old-school, new-school guy. That’s hard to do,” said Diamondbacks scout Alex Jacobs, who was the director of player personnel for the Weinstein-managed Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
LIKE ANY GOOD COACH, WEINSTEIN WAS MOLDED BY WHO COACHED HIM. In Little League, he played on a team led by Murray Burke, a Korean War veteran who had recently returned home. Weinstein was just falling in love with the game, but he already had a coaching mentor to remember.
“He was as impactful for me as any baseball coach. He didn’t know that. You just don’t know how you will impact (players),” Weinstein said.
Even when he was playing, Weinstein was eying a future as a coach. He describes himself as a player in a very self-deprecating manner. He caught because he figured out pretty quickly that catchers are the hardest players to cut. After all, every team needs someone to catch bullpens.
As a player, Weinstein caught a lot of bullpens. He earned one letter at UCLA (in 1965). He hit .190 with zero home runs and zero RBIs that year. But his desire to learn and teach stood out to UCLA coach Art Reichle, who offered him a chance to coach the Bruins’ freshman team in 1966 while Weinstein worked on his master’s degree and his teaching certificate.
Watching Reichle and Southern California’s Rod Dedeaux at work was a master class in coaching. Reichle then helped Weinstein land a job as a teacher and baseball coach at a nearby high school. A year later, Weinstein coached the UCLA freshman team for one more season as he finished up his master’s.
That was the start of a career long enough that Weinstein has now had several coaching careers rolled into one. His 23 years at Sacramento City were highly successful. He produced more than two dozen big leaguers, including Chris Bosio,
Jeff Blauser, Fernando Vina, Greg Vaughn and R.J. Reynolds. He has been a farm director, a roving coach, a minor league manager and a major league coach.
But there’s been a common thread throughout his range of jobs. He’s not averse to landing a great job, but he’s never been one to look at a job’s title or prestige as motivation.
That’s probably never been more apparent than in 1984. At that point, Weinstein had built Sacramento City into a consistent power that had won three straight league titles.
Weinstein happened to be talking about recruiting with then-Miami assistant Skip Bertman right around the time that Bertman announced he was leaving the Hurricanes to become Louisiana State’s head coach. Bertman connected Weinstein with Miami head coach Ron Fraser.
“He asked ‘Hey, can you fly down tomorrow,’ ” Weinstein said. “I went home and told my wife. All of her family lives on the West Coast, but I told her I need to go check it out. I got there and Fraser and I hit it off immediately. Within two hours, he offered me the job. When I went home, it wasn’t a smooth talk.”
Weinstein and his wife’s ties were on the West Coast. So instead of diving in, they dipped their toes in the water for a cross-country move. Weinstein applied for and received a year-long leave of absence from Sacramento City.
That year the Hurricanes made it to the College World Series. If Weinstein had stayed at Miami, he likely would have had the inside path to being Fraser’s eventual suc- cessor with the Hurricanes, one of the marquee programs in college baseball. But he rarely saw his family that spring and they wanted to be closer to home. So after only one year, Weinstein and family returned to Sacramento City, where he won 12 more league titles over the next 14 seasons and a JUCO World Series championship in his final sea- son in 1998.
In 2013, the Rockies had an opening on their big league staff for a catching coach and asked Weinstein to move up from his post as high Class A Modesto manager. It was Weinstein’s first opportunity to work on a major league staff. But he had to be talked into the job.
“He’s definitely abnormal,” Geivett said. “ I think he probably looked at it in the beginning as one team as being a very small laboratory for him. He found he got to work day-in and day-out at the highest level. It was his ultimate laboratory. He was working with the best players in the game. It’s a perspective very few people get to experience.”
Weinstein’s moves have allowed him a variety of experiences.
“I’m generally good wherever my feet are,” Weinstein said. “I’m also cognizant when you are in a good spot, there aren’t all that many good spots.”
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WEINSTEIN HAS FOUND A LOT OF GOOD SPOTS. AND HE’S MADE A LOT OF IMPACTS. His coaching and front office tree includes Geivett, McKay, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper, UNC Wilmington pitching coach Matt Myers and also Jay Robertson, who was the Indians’ scouting director and special assis- tant to general managers for the Rangers and Nationals.
But because he keeps learning, Weinstein said he believes he’s a bet- ter coach now.
“I would tell 25-year-old Jerry Weinstein to get over myself,” he said. “It’s not about you. It’s about the players. I now clearly see the value of relationships and develop- ing the individual to the maximum.”
And that’s what he’s done for more than 50 years.
“The back of Jerry Weinstein’s baseball card as a coach, you can put it up against anyone who has ever coached. It’s that scary,” McKay said. “But the beauty of Jerry is, if he was managing a big league team this summer, or coaching the pitchers in a summer college league or giving a private lesson, he’d do it with the exact same pride and passion. The only thing he cares about is improvement. He loves the process of doing it. It’s not work for him. He loves it.”
TONY GWYNN AWARD WINNERS
The Tony Gwynn Award is a lifetime achievement award Baseball America gives annually for lasting contributions to the game. The award is named after Gwynn, who not only had a Hall of Fame playing career but was also a successful coach at his alma mater of San Diego State. Here is a look at previous winners.
2015: Cal Ripken Jr. Owner of the record for most consecutive games played and a Hall of Fame shortstop, Ripken has stayed in the game after retiring as a player. He is the owner of several minor league teams and also works in helping players develop through the Ripken Baseball Camps, Ripken tournaments and Ripken Summer Collegiate League.
2016: Augie Garrido. Garrido retired in 2016 with the most wins in college baseball history (1,975). That mark has since been surpassed by Florida State’s Mike Martin, but Garrido remains one of the most successful coaches in college baseball history. He won five national titles with Cal State Fullerton and Texas and made 15 College World Series appearances.
2017: Tom Kotchman. A longtime scout and coach, Kotchman has made significant impacts both in scouting and player devel- opment. He has worked as a coach and manager since taking a job in the New York- Penn League in 1979, and is one of the win- ningest managers in minor league history. He’s equally accomplished as a scout, where he signed numerous big leaguers, including Howie Kendrick, Patrick Corbin and non- drafted free agent Darren O’Day.