A lifelong learner & coach shares lessons learned from coaching teams in high school, junior college, summer college leagues, NCAA D1, the minor leagues, the MLB and international competitions, such as the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.
Jerry Weinstein began his coaching career in 1966 as a UCLA freshman coach. He was an assistant under Ron Fraser on the 1984 University of Miami Hurricanes, which came in fourth at the College World Series. He then coached at Sacramento City College. He led the school to 831 wins across 23 seasons, and led the team to 16 league titles, the California Community College Athletic Association state title in 1988 and 1998, and one national title. A total of 213 of his players were drafted, including 28 who reached the major leagues.
Jerry has been active in International baseball as head coach of the USA representative in the 1970 University Games, assistant coach of the USA team in the 1989 Pan Am Games, the 1992 Olympic Team, the 1996 Olympic Team (Bronze Medal), and head coach of the 2004 USA Maccabiah Team (Gold Medal). He has spoken at clinics in Italy, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Germany.
In professional baseball, Jerry has been the Brewers catching coordinator, managed for the Expos, Cubs, and for the Rockies in the California League. He also was catching coordinator for the Dodgers and later Director of Player Development for the Dodgers. From 2012-2017,Jerry served as the Catching Coordinator for the Rockies.
Weinstein managedTeam Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classicqualifier, leading them to a perfect 3-0 record, qualifying Israel for their firstWorld Baseball Classicappearance. He returned as the head coach in the main tournament, managingTeam Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classicin South Korea and Japan in March 2017, where the team was 4-2 overall in the tournament.
Jerry is a member of the California Community College Baseball Hall of Fame, the Sacramento City College Athletic Hall of Fame, the ABCA Hall of Fame and the La Salle Club Coaches Hall of Fame.
You can follow Jerry on Twitter.
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Jerry: [00:00:00] Jerry. Are you ready?
[00:00:04] Sammy: [00:00:04] Let’s play ball.
[00:00:05] So in 2018 you won the Tony Gwynn award, a lifetime achievement award Baseball America gives annually for contributing to the game. What do you believe are some of the qualities that have enabled you to have a 50 plus year career in baseball?
[00:00:19]Jerry: [00:00:19] Longevity, the number one is being 77 years old. I think they, they ran out younger guys and they got down to me. I’m obviously pleased to receive an award like that, but somewhat embarrassed. It’s it’s quite an award because when JJ Cooper from Baseball America called me. He said it was unanimous. We were the only guy we even talked about. I said okay. I said who, it’s unbelievable to get an award. That’s a, that honors Tony Gwynn. I said, who’s gotten this award? It’s, it’s been new award relatively cause he passed a short time ago and he said the first recipient was Cal Ripkin.
[00:00:57] I said, you gotta be kidding me. I’m getting an award named after Tony Gwynn, that the first recipient was Cal Ripkin. And I said, it seems like somewhat of a drop off your issues. And then Tom Kotchman, who was a premium scout for the Angels for a long time, works for the Red Sox now and a rookie league coach and a tremendous guy.
[00:01:18] And very humbling.
[00:01:21] Sammy: [00:01:21] So while baseball has certainly changed, And been through a lot of technological changes in the last decade or so. What are some of the core lessons that have never changed and many don’t speak about since you first started playing baseball?
[00:01:34]Jerry: [00:01:34] The core is is you better be able to use your eyes and better be able to react to the game pitch by pitch and not have to rely on looking at your clipboard for the data to access to make decisions.
[00:01:47] The game happens very fast in the dugout. And obviously you need to do your homework and be prepared before the game, but there’s a lot of things that happen during the game that will affect your decision making. Good instincts and gut-feel and a good observational skills are still going to be the thing that, that rules of the day.
[00:02:08] Sammy: [00:02:08] You have successfuly coached Baseball in high school, junior college, summer college leagues, NCAA division one, the minor leagues, the major leagues and international competitions, such as the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. If you could go back and tell a high school athlete something today, what would you tell them to help them on their journey?
[00:02:29]Jerry: [00:02:29] Maintain your passion for the game. That’s number one. Number two, accept responsibility for your actions. Player development is just that it’s the player developing himself. Now, certainly coaches are going to be resources, but ultimately the best lessons are self-taught. And so you have to accept responsibility for your development.
[00:02:47] And it’s a game. It must be fun. There’s going to be highs and lows. There’s a lot of speed bumps out there, but embrace all parts of the game and everything’s important.
[00:02:59] Sammy: [00:02:59] So having written numerous books and videos and catching, what is it that you wish pitchers knew more about the catchers do?
[00:03:08]Jerry: [00:03:08] I think that the awareness, I think that pitchers are really have had an accelerated learning curve with today’s game as far as the impact of catching on their performance on a given day. And I think that. There is an, and really has been an appreciation for that pitcher, catcher relationship, not only from the catchers with a servant mentality, but I think the pitchers truly do understand what the catchers do for them.
[00:03:33] And even more so now with the data that we have relative to receiving and framing and things like that and how it enhances the pitcher’s performance.
[00:03:44] Sammy: [00:03:44] So I love watching the movie “Heading Home, the Tale of Team Israel” and seeing you in the movie, it was a great story, but what are some of the tales you wish that they should put in there, but they didn’t?
[00:03:56]Jerry: [00:03:56] Think one of the things that it w it, it was all fun and games, but the process of leading up to it was pretty arduous getting a, the best players. First identifying the best players and then convincing them to play was not an easy task. We thought that after the qualifier, that we’d have access to a lot of 40 men guys and they’d want to play, but it didn’t turn out that way.
[00:04:21] Organizations were reticent to, to send players number one, because it was right during spring training, we were going to numerous times zones away to Korea and possibly Japan. And so the and the talent pool is not that deep, but I’ll tell you one really quick story. I had a young guy who worked for Houston , Alex Jacobs, who was a pro scout, really sharp guy, and really devoted to our cause.
[00:04:48] And he helped me identify players, find players and so on and so forth. And we were really scuffling for a shortstop. Now we would have played Ty Kelly at short, we would have been okay. But we really didn’t have a true shortstop. And so he calls me one day and I was, I think I was during the summer, I was in the Cape and he says, Hey do you know Scotty Bertram?
[00:05:10] And I said nah, I don’t think so. He says, he’s in your organization. He plays at. He plays at to Asheville. And he says, do you know if he’s Jewish? And I said no, I don’t. I don’t know. He says look at what Alex had been doing. We were, we had. Hit a roadblock. And he had, was going through every minor league roster and any non descript type a name, for instance if he knew if they were definitely Jewish, but he didn’t know if they were not Jewish because a lot of times.
[00:05:40] It might be a Jewish mother and a an a, an, a Gentile father, whatever. And so the name doesn’t always tell you whether they’re Jewish or not. And so what he did he went, he says, look at, he says, I went on Scotty Bertrand’s mother. I found Scottie Bertrand’s mother Facebook page, and she’s definitely Jewish.
[00:06:01] And so I said I’ll call I. So I called our manager again, and Joe Mikel looked there. I said, Joel, I said, this is going to be the most different requests you’ve ever had. I said, would you ask Scotty Bertram if he’s Jewish or not? And they were in the locker room just after BP, before a game.
[00:06:17] Hey, Bertram, come over. Jerry Weinstein’s on the phone. He says, are you Jewish? He says yeah, my mom is. And that’s how we’ve got our shortstop, who was an integral performer on our team. He was a low A player, but he played like a big leaguer on a team and it was embraced by all the big league players on that team.
[00:06:35] So he was a key element and that’s how hard it was to really find. The right guys that were Jewish to play on that team because it was difficult. The other one was Jason Marquis. I must’ve called him 30 times and he never returned a call. And then finally I looked and he had, there was an alumni team in the national baseball conference.
[00:06:58] So it was playing in Wichita. And and Marquis was playing and I read where he had played and pitched the first six innings. And then it was a 15 inning game and played the last nine innings in the outfield night. Finally, I say, Hey, I’ll try them one more time. And I called him, this was right before the qualifier, maybe less than a month before the qualifier.
[00:07:18] And he was in Florida at Disney World with his family. And I said, Hey, I know you like to play with you places. Yeah. I said, look, it, you live in Staten Island, the qualifiers in Brooklyn, you can live in a home, you can commute whatever you want to do. We just need to have you pitch twice. It’s like a 55 pitch count deal. And you’re pretty much ready and right now it’s yeah, I’m ready to go. It’s just, but definitely be ready, by then okay. I’ll do it, but I’m not playing, I’m just playing in the qualifier. And so Marquis comes on and when he, he says the only thing is he says, I want to be in a hitting group and I want to take ground balls at short everyday. Hey, whatever you need, big guy just be ready to pitch twice.
[00:08:00] He says, no problem. And Marquis, he’s the kind of guy that when he commits to something is he’s not on the periphery. He’s all in. He was straight to the young guys. He was all in, in terms of being a team guy and in a winner. And I obviously pitched extremely well and we qualified. And then after the qualifier, I said No, I’m reticent to ask you this.
[00:08:21] I know what you’re going to ask me. He says, yeah, I want to go to the, I want to go to the WBC and wherever it is, I’ll be there. And so we had him for the the first round in Seoul, Korea, and then we had him in Tokyo and he was great. And he was great with the guys, just a first-class individual and a real professional.
[00:08:39] So that’s, those are my two WBC stories.
[00:08:43]Sammy: [00:08:43] How did you get a bunch of guys who may have not been on the same team before to place it great team baseball?
[00:08:50]Jerry: [00:08:50] In 2012, I was supposed to coach the team and I, I got a big league job with the Rockies. And was unavailable to do. And so Brad Osmos did it, and they had a really good team that Joc Peterson and a lot of the guys that the Nate Frymans and numerous guys that were on our team in 2016 and 17, and they had gone through the round robin undefeated, and then they had to play.
[00:09:21] As it turns out, you play the team out of the losers bracket, and it’s a one game series and whoever wins it, whether you both have won one loss or not. And then they ended up losing to Spain and I know Josh died for one, that was a very impactful experience on him. And it really.
[00:09:40] Oh, I hate to be dramatic, but for him it somewhat scarred him. And like when we qualified, he says, this whole WBC was the highlight of his baseball career. And he’s a very accomplished guy from Vanderbilt who pitched in the big leagues. And so we had a core from that team that were with us in in 2016, 17.
[00:10:03] And what we had this little mini camp before the qualifier in Hudson Valley, and we got together and we worked first day, we worked out some guy, a lot of guys didn’t know one another, but there was a core of guys. That we’re buddies, just because professional baseball’s a fraternity and everybody knows everybody.
[00:10:22] So after our workout, we had a little time, cause I had set up a field trip after our workout. We were going to the military Academy and talk to the cadets about professional baseball, the WBC, so on, and so forth. And we just sat in the dugout and I said, Hey, I don’t know most of you guys, most of you guys don’t know me and some of one another, but a lot don’t and.
[00:10:42]Let’s just say, who are you where you’re from? Tell us a little about you. And when it got to Z ia it got to be extremely emotional, how much it meant to him. And that really resonated with our group. And I think that was the foundation of that team culture that carried through both the qualifier and the WBC.
[00:11:06] So that’s how that’s how it happened in such a short period of time. I think also a guy like Cody Decker, who was really a, an entertainer, a good player, and also added tothe team culture, being really very social, very loose. He’s the guy that brought the Mensch to the Bench and stuff like that.
[00:11:26] And there was we had a bunch of really good guys who were there for the right reasons and it wasn’t, there weren’t any individual agendas and mean we had Sammy Fuld. Who’s the GM of the Phillies now. And any guy that came on board was a hundred percent there to help us win ball games.
[00:11:45] Sammy: [00:11:45] So who are the best teammates you have coached over the years? And what is it that made them the best, the greatest teammates?
[00:11:52]Jerry: [00:11:52] I’m not going to, I’m not going to single people out, but I can tell you what makes a great teammate is a guy that is has the right his priorities in order, relative to team first and myself second, going to the ballpark today to help someone gets better and sacrificing and consistent on a daily basis, whether they go four for four or Oh, for four and being a team guy and really taking care of his business in terms of his preparation and effort, how they play, how hard they play I’ll name one guy.
[00:12:25] And to me, one of the best of all time is Michael Cudyer who played Who played for the Twins for a long time. And then with the Rockies in the east. That’s the kind of guy you’re looking for to create a team culture is as a team, it really unselfish giving internal leaders, not afraid to be transparent and say something to someone that my hurt their feelings and being self-deprecating in terms of accepting responsibility for their actions.
[00:12:54] That’s that’s what we’re looking for.
[00:12:57] Sammy: [00:12:57] So on this podcast, I like to end with more of a broader question. So my question to you is what is your favorite baseball books?
[00:13:07] Jerry: [00:13:07] Ooh, most of the books, most of the baseball, but I don’t read too much fictional type stuff in terms of baseball books and the Bull Durhams and the stuff like that. And I don’t even know if there’s a book Bull Durham. I know there’s a movie, but I, most of the stuff I read is technical. And then I’ll read a lot of mindset stuff like Ken Ravizza’s book and Harvey Dorfman and different technical books. I just finished a book on my Bill Parisi on fascia and the book by Tom Tango, TangoTiger.
[00:13:39] And guys like that, I’d read mostly things that relate to the new metrics in baseball and analytical type stuff, Bill James type stuff, but not so much novels per se.
[00:13:51] Sammy: [00:13:51] So where can people find more about you and your resources?
[00:13:56]Jerry: [00:13:56] Twitter, I do some on Twitter just about every day.
[00:13:59]It’s capital JW small on and capital all caps CATCHING. And then I’ve got a website that I have a book that I’ve written a catching book and it’s Weinsteinbaseball.com. That’s. That’s about it,
[00:14:13] Sammy: [00:14:13] Jerry. Thank you so much for playing ball.
[00:14:16] Jerry: [00:14:16] You bet Sammy. I enjoyed it.