Catching Up With Former Modesto Nuts Manager Jerry Weinstein
When Jerry Weinstein gets recognized these days, he says, it’s often as the “Twitter guy.” Or maybe the “Team Israel guy.”
“You know, I spent 25 years at Sacramento City College,” Weinstein says. “And we did pretty good.”
Indeed, Weinstein led Sac City’s baseball program to 831 wins and two state titles in 23 seasons. He says it’s “still my best job, my favorite.”
But consider it a mark of Weinstein’s longevity that, at 73 years old, he’s still carving out new identities in baseball. Last summer he managed in the Cape Cod League for the first time. This spring, he led Team Israel on its upstart run into the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Weinstein is currently in his first season managing the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, a Colorado Rockies affiliate. It’s his 11th season in the Rockies’ organization, and it gets him back into the dugout after spending most of last season as their special instructor to player development.
Teaching baseball is Weinstein’s passion. Which helps explain how, at an age at which social media often elicits shrugs, he has also become something of a Twitter guru.
Weinstein’s Twitter page – @JWonCATCHING – has upward of 20,000 followers. He posts regularly, sometimes two or three times a day – usually short video clips of major-league action accompanied by 140 characters or less of professional analysis.
On Sunday, for example, Weinstein uploaded a clip of Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman hitting a 470-foot home run and noted how Zimmerman generates “a lot of energy into rotation with a high quick leg kick.” Further down, Weinstein posted a home run hit by Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager against the Giants, commenting on how Seager creates a “rubber band effect” between his hands and striding leg to generate power in his swing.
“I get a lot of feedback from all segments of the baseball population,” Weinstein said by phone last week, “whether it’s a father-coach, a player, college coach, pro guy.
“Which is good, because for me I’m just trying to provide options for people to do things better. I’m not saying what I put on there is the gospel. It’s just, if it works for you, great. There’s no ‘always’ or ‘never’ in this game.”
Still, Weinstein marvels at the reach this platform provides. He says he didn’t know what Twitter was until a few years ago, when a friend suggested it as a way to help promote the book Weinstein had just finished, “The Complete Handbook of Coaching Catchers.”
“I put one (tweet) in yesterday and it had like over 50,000 hits,” Weinstein said. “My deal is if it helps the game in general, if it helps a coach or player specifically, that’s great. That’s really all I’m trying to do right now.”
It’s why, rather than relaxing at his semipermanent home in San Luis Obispo, Weinstein is riding buses and sitting through rain delays in the Eastern League. He spent a couple of seasons on the Rockies’ major-league staff in 2012-13, coaching catching and defensive positioning. But he says he feels at home working with players at a development level.
Before his stint in Colorado, Weinstein was managing at Class-A Modesto. When then-Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd approached him about moving up, Weinstein says, the conversation went something like this:
“I said, ‘Oh, OK. I really like managing in Modesto,’ ” Weinstein said. “He says, ‘Jerry, we’re talking about coaching in the big leagues.’ And I said, ‘Well, I know that, but I’m just telling you I like what I’m doing.’
“I think they were a little surprised. It certainly was a good experience. But I really like teaching and coaching young players.”
The opportunity to manage Team Israel offered something different. Weinstein says he considers himself a secular Jew, but he had visited Israel in a baseball capacity and saw the need for resources to grow the sport there.
“They don’t have fields; there’s not enough full-time employees,” Weinstein said. “So I thought this would be a good thing, if we could be competitive, to heighten awareness not only in Israel but in the United States.”
Under Weinstein, Team Israel won a four-team qualifier in Brooklyn last September to crack the WBC field for the first time. Then, with a roster featuring only a handful of players on major-league 40-man rosters, Team Israel went undefeated in the first round of pool play and fell one win shy of reaching the WBC semifinals, finishing 4-2 overall.
“On the surface we were tabbed the ‘has-beens’ and the ‘wanna-bes,’ ” Weinstein said. “Our guys believed in their ability; they believed in the value of team. It’s not about having the nine best players; it’s having the best nine guys that play together. And we played together extremely well.”
Their underdog story was one of the most compelling of the tournament. And by winning the first-round pool in South Korea, Team Israel won $1 million, part of which Weinstein said would go to the Israel Association of Baseball to grow their programs.
“Hopefully this will be a good foundation for a baseball program in Israel,” he said.
“And I will say that having done this, and having been in Israel and visited Israel, I think I’m more connected now with my heritage than ever before.”