Jerry Weinstein is one of the Rockies’ hidden treasures.
Fans might not know who he is, but plenty of players do. For scouts, managers and coaches throughout baseball, Weinstein is an icon. In 2020, he was presented the prestigious Wilson Lefty Gomez Award in recognition from the American Baseball Coaches Association as “an individual who has contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally and internationally.”
Weinstein, who turns 79 on Nov. 9, currently works as the Rockies’ special assistant in scouting and player development. He’s earned a reputation as a catching expert, immersed in the details of baseball’s most-demanding position. But Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt, who’s known Weinstein for more than three decades, sees him as so much more.
“People talk about Jerry as this catching guru, because he does a lot of clinics and videos and technical things,” Schmidt said. “And now he’s big into Twitter, too. But first and foremost, he’s a baseball coach and a teacher. To me, he’s always been a baseball guy.”
Schmidt first knew Weinstein when Schmidt was a high school coach and Weinstein was a well-known figure at Sacramento City College. Weinstein was the head coach there for 23 seasons, guiding the Panthers to 16 conference championships, two co-conference titles, a state title in 1988 and a national championship in 1998. He was honored as the National Community College baseball coach of the year in 1988 and 1998.
Weinstein joined the Rockies organization in 2007 when he took over as manager of High-A Modesto, where he managed Nolan Arenado in 2011. He was Colorado’s major-league catching coach from 2012-13 and the Rockies’ offensive coordinator in 2014. His last season managing a minor league team was in 2017 with Double-A Hartford.
“Jerry is very tough on you, and he’s a hard (expletive), but in the very best way,” said Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon, who played for Weinstein at High-A and Double-A. “You will never meet somebody with better intentions and with a genuine desire to make you better.
“I credit Jerry for a lot of my success and I think he’s a big reason why I got better defensively. He always pushed me. Nothing was ever good enough, and at the time, I needed that.”
Every major league team searches for catchers who are technically sound behind the plate, productive with the bat, and come to the ballpark every day with the attitude of a gladiator. So it does Weinstein’s heart good to know that the Rockies’ current corps of catching prospects is talented and promising.
“First of all, I have to give credit to Mark Strittmatter for developing these guys because I’m really just an extension of him,” Weinstein said of “Stritty,” who’s been the franchise’s catching coordinator for the past nine years before he expanded his role this year to include field coordinator.
“Our current group, as a whole, is one of the best in baseball, maybe the best,” Weinstein continued. “Obviously, you always like your own guys. But I think I’ve been around long enough, and I’m really objective enough to be accurate about that. And I think that most of the people in the industry that see our guys would tell you the same thing.”
Leading the Rockies’ list is Drew Romo, the 35th overall pick of the 2020 draft who’s currently playing for High-A Spokane. Baseball America lists the 21-year-old Romo as Colorado’s third-best overall prospect.
Hunter Goodman, a fourth-round pick out of Memphis in 2021, is now turning heads at Double-A Hartford, having smashed 34 homers at three levels of the minors this season. Some of the other young catchers flashing potential are Willie MacIver (Double-A), Braxton Fulford (Low-A Fresno) and Daniel Cope (Double-A).
“I would agree with what Jerry said because we have some quality catching depth developing in the organization,” Schmidt said. “A lot of people are talking about Romo, who has a chance to be a very good player in the majors. Hunter Goodman is probably more of an offensive guy now and we’ve been using him some at first base at Hartford. We’ll see how he pans out behind the plate.”
Weinstein lives in San Luis Obisbo, Calif., and he still goes to the beach every morning. That is, when he’s not on the road checking out catching prospects or hosting clinics.
He first started coaching in 1966 for the freshman team at his alma mater, UCLA. Since then, he’s coached and managed at virtually every level, from high school and community college to the Olympics, Cape Cod League, rookie ball, and Low-A all the way to the majors.
In 2017, Weinstein managed Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Israel stunned the baseball world by winning Pool A with a 3-0 record and advancing to the last eight. The team, built around MLB-affiliated Jewish Americans, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands.
After more than 56 years of coaching, he’s still going strong. Next year, he’ll travel to Cologne, Germany, to participate in a baseball clinic.
“I’m still feeling great,” he said. “I work out every day and I read a lot and that keeps my mind sharp.”
Early in his career, he began using video technology to discover what his players were doing biomechanically and how they could improve. His use of this technology has evolved over the years, and Weinstein now produces baseball videos and has more than 25,000 followers on Twitter.
“I wasn’t a great player, but I always loved the game, so early on I started learning and studying,” he said. “I’ve been an information junkie my entire life.”
During the season, Weinstein watches almost every game played in the Rockies organization on television, from the major-league team to the low-A team in Fresno. Often, he watches two games at once, then sends in his charts and reports to Strittmatter and the Rockies’ front office.
Weinstein loves all aspects of teaching baseball — McMahon credits Weinstein for teaching him how to bunt — but developing catchers is his particular passion.
He doesn’t just talk about catchers, he preaches.
“Some people think of the catcher as the fat little kid behind home plate in ‘The Sandlot,’” Weinstein said, referring to the red-headed, freckle-faced character, Hamilton “Ham” Porter. “But that’s not it at all. The catcher is vital.
“Of course, the starting pitcher is important, but he’s only out there every fifth day. The catcher is behind the plate every game.”
In a rapid-fire sequence, Weinstein rattles off the attributes a catcher must possess if he’s going to make it to the major leagues.
“You have to be tough and you have to have a thick skin,” he said. “You’re expected to hit but you’re also expected to spend time preparing for the game. You have to have the trust of the pitchers, you have to have a personality, and you have to be strong and athletic, and quick. And you have to be mobile.
“The catcher is the quarterback on the field and the lead singer of the band. Where he goes, the team goes. I firmly believe that.”