Rockies cheering Weinstein's WBC from afar
Double-A Hartford manager piloting Israel's surprising run in Classic
By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The Double-A Hartford Yard Goats have yet to meet their new manager, but over the last week, they've gotten a glimpse of what could await Dunkin' Donuts Park in the ballpark's debut season.
Hartford manager Jerry Weinstein is taking a different route through Spring Training this year, half a world away managing the upstart Israel national team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Weinstein will return to a managerial role in the Rockies organization for the first time since 2011 when his WBC squad ends its run, but he and both of his teams are hoping that isn't for another 10 days.
"What I keep saying about Jerry is you have to be a pretty good baseball man to be adding to your resume still, at 73 years old," Rockies senior director of player development Zach Wilson said. "For him to manage Team Israel, it's like a topper to an already unbelievable career. We supported him, and we pushed him, 'Hey man, this is something you've got to do. We'll figure it out here.'"
As Minor Leaguers went to work on Monday, Wilson spoke from the Rockies' executive offices at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, just hours after Israel suffered its first loss in the Classic. After rolling through pool play with an unbeaten record that included wins over host Korea and a powerhouse Netherlands squad, the 2017 tournament's Cinderella team took down Cuba in its second-round opener before falling 12-2 in a rematch with the Dutch in a game that started at 3 a.m. Arizona time Monday morning.
A longtime coach at the college level, Weinstein joined the Rockies organization in 2007 when he took over as manager of Class A Advanced Modesto. Following five seasons in that role, Weinstein was Colorado's big league catching coach from 2012-13 and the Rockies' offensive coordinator in 2014. The last two seasons saw him serve as Modesto's supervisor of development. In April, he'll be back in charge in Hartford.
Weinstein coached a United States team in the 2005 Maccabiah Games, where he established contacts in the Israeli baseball community. Seven years later, he was supposed to manage Israel's first WBC team, but big league coaching conflicts prevented his involvement. The 2017 Classic provided an opportunity the baseball lifer didn't want to miss again.
"A couple great things about Jerry: number one, he's still looking to learn and evolve at his age, even with all the experience," Wilson said. "Jerry's one of these guys, he's going to forget more about baseball than I'm ever going to know. That's something I appreciate about him and we all appreciate about him. The other thing that's great about Jerry is he's a servant-leader. He wants to do what's right by the organization. He's been here so long now, he's neck-deep in our culture, and he knows how to spread that. That's an important part, particularly at that level, of what he's going to do."
Weinstein isn't the only member of the Rockies organization with the Israeli club. Class A Advanced Lancaster trainer Josh Guterman is lending his services on Weinstein's Team Israel staff. Infielder Scott Burcham laced the go-ahead hit in extra innings that gave Israel a 2-1 win over Korea in the teams' pool play-opening matchup, and right-hander Troy Neiman is a member of Israel's bullpen. Australian catcher Robbie Perkins saw action in one game for his home country before they were eliminated in pool play.
"We're proud of Jerry, and we're excited for him and really that whole team and all of our guys who are playing in [the WBC]," Wilson said. "They've represented very well so far."
The Rockies also loaned big league stars Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez to play for the United States and Venezuela, respectively.
"When you have an opportunity to represent your country and to play on a stage like that, if that's something guys want to do, we're for it," Wilson said. "Scotty Burcham, who's the shortstop for Team Israel, the guy played in [Class A] Asheville last year. I mean, what a thrill for him. To do this now, to represent Israel, that's great. It's no different than we did with (No. 11 Rockies prospect) Tommy Murphy in the  Pan-Am Games a few years ago. When you can play in that type of environment, in that type of pressure, especially with guys who are closer to the big leagues, it can only help them develop. You can't replicate real pressure-type situations where people are counting on you to win baseball games. When they're able to do that on stages like that, it can only benefit them."
With one game left in Round 2, Israel's fate remains to be decided. Two teams among Israel, Cuba, Japan and the Netherlands will advance to the WBC semifinals next week at Dodger Stadium.
Weinstein's team -- comprised mainly of American players with Jewish heritage -- will take on world No. 1 Japan on Wednesday night local time in Tokyo -- the same 3 a.m. Arizona start time with which the Rockies have become quite familiar.
"What's killing me right now with Jerry is I get the 2:15 a.m. text messages because it's like 16 and a half hours [ahead], the next day over there," Wilson joked. "Other than that, it's been awesome to see him doing what he's doing."