AURORA, COLO. (AP) - A few of his high school players sauntered out to the diamond on a balmy Thursday afternoon, congregating near the infield grass that’s beginning to turn brown.
A day after hearing the news that Walt Weiss, their coach at Regis Jesuit, was heading back to the big leagues as manager of the Colorado Rockies, they were still a little stunned. That was their coach, the one who just six months ago was taking grounders with them in practice _ on this field _ as he guided the team to the state semifinals.
Now, Weiss is making the unusual leap from high school coach to major league manager.
His players are already imagining the possibilities. Maybe Weiss will give them a tour of the clubhouse, or perhaps invite them to watch batting practice at Coors Field.
They’re certain of this much: He’s the right fit to turn around a team that finished a franchise-worst 64-98 last season.
“The way he respects the game, he’ll be a very successful coach,” senior catcher Jake Leathers said. “He’s going to get the program headed in the right direction.”
Everywhere they looked around the field at Regis, there were little reminders of Weiss.
Over there, that’s where Weiss hit a double into the right-center gap one day in practice, an effortless swing filled with so much power. He was just clowning around to loosen the mood before a big game.
And over there, that’s where he gave an impromptu tutorial on the proper way to handle the infield fly rule if you’re on base.
A lesson that would come in handy later.
More than anything, though, his players will remember the little sayings Weiss used to utter before they took the field. Nothing earth shattering, just things like: “Play the game hard and play the game right” or, “Stay humble, because if you’re not humble, the game will find a way to humble you.”
Those axioms hit their mark.
“He knows how to play it right and teach it well,” said junior pitcher David Peterson, who just so happened to unintentionally show up for school Thursday wearing a Rockies sweatshirt. “He’ll take over the clubhouse and turn things around.”
Peterson will miss listening to Weiss‘ stories in the dugout. The 48-year-old Weiss was full of tales, too, ones he accumulated by playing shortstop for parts of 14 seasons in the majors. He started with Oakland (1987-92), where he won the 1988 AL Rookie of the Year award, and also had stops in Florida (1993), Colorado (1994-97) and Atlanta (1998-2000).