On Wednesday, reports surfaced that Walt Weiss would be named the new manager of the Colorado Rockies. From an institutional culture standpoint, this move makes plenty of sense: Weiss was a longtime Rockies player, who arrived in 1994 and served as the team's shortstop for four years, after which he became a special assistant to general manager Dan O'Dowd.
Yet Weiss' appointment is a strange one on another level: Prior to his hiring, Weiss had only coached for one season ... at a Denver-area high school. As reported by the Denver Post, Weiss spent the 2012 season as the head coach of the Aurora (Colo.) Regis Jesuit High baseball team. If the school sounds familiar, that's probably because it also happens to be the academic home of U.S. Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin (so Weiss wasn't even the most famous person walking around campus before leaving to take the Rockies position).
"I am trying to get my head around this and over the past few weeks I have come to grips with it," Weiss told the Post. "There are going to be things that I won't foresee that will be part of the job. I will figure things out. And I will lean on guys around me and get help with the logistics about that part of the job."
That an MLB team would appoint a manager straight from the high school ranks is a surprise, though Weiss' lack of professional experience does have some precedent from the 2012 season. After Ozzie Guillen left to manage the Marlins in 2011, the White Sox appointed former catcher Robin Ventura as their new manager. The Cardinals followed suit after Tony LaRussa's departure, naming Mike Matheny as the team's new skipper.
The Cardinals responded by making the playoffs and reaching the NLCS despite entering the season without Albert Pujols, while the White Sox nearly snuck into the playoffs against all preseason predictions.
Regardless, Weiss' situation is a bit different because of his high school experience. Ventura and Matheny went straight from being players and instructional assistants of professional clubs to being a manager, a transition in which they were consistently working with other professionals. Weiss spent his lone season away from professional baseball trying to teach teenagers, including his son, Brody Weiss.
Now he'll be making the leap to the pros, and plenty will be skeptical about his success, while other former baseball executives have been quick to predict that Weiss will be able to make the transition successfully.
For his part, Weiss said that he's just excited about being able to be part of a professional team again, even if it will be a far distance from where he spent the prior season.
"The bottom line is being part of a team, having the opportunity to lead men with a common goal," Weiss said. "That's what got my juices going as a player. I love being part of the team and trying to do my part to win a game every day. I get to do that again albeit it in a different role. But at the same time you can have an impact and create respect and trust. I can't wait to get going."
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