CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It was a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Spectrum Field, another speck on the map for a baseball man who has experienced nearly everything in the game. But even the seemingly non-glorious task of leading the split-squad Braves against the Phillies -- two hours on the bus trip
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It was a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Spectrum Field, another speck on the map for a baseball man who has experienced nearly everything in the game. But even the seemingly non-glorious task of leading the split-squad Braves against the Phillies -- two hours on the bus trip over, two hours back -- couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of Walt Weiss.
He's back in a Major League uniform.
"I will never, ever take that for granted,'' said Weiss, in his first season as bench coach on manager Brian Snitker's staff.
Weiss, who took a year off for family time after four seasons as Rockies manager (2013-16), said he doesn't need the limelight.
But as it turned out, he can't live without baseball, either.
"It has been great being back,'' Weiss said. "It's a great time to be an Atlanta Brave. There's excitement over the future with a lot of good players in the farm system, the new stadium, all of it.
"I'm happy being here, doing my part. Sometimes, when you're in the background, you can get a lot done.''
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Weiss has enjoyed his share of leading the parade. He was a first-round Draft pick. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1988 -- while serving as a slick-fielding shortstop for the Athletics, who won the earthquake-interrupted World Series one season later.
He was the foundation of an expansion team (Marlins) in 1993, then jumped to the National League's other expansion team (Rockies) one season later. He became a first-time NL All-Star late in life (age 34) after landing with the Braves.
On the bookends of his playing career, he performed for a pair of Hall of Fame managers (Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox). He worked in the front office. He became a manager himself.
"I don't want to say I've tasted everything in this game, because it always has a way of surprising you,'' said Weiss, 54. "But I have done a lot. And I was lucky to get a chance to do other things.''
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Bordering his managerial stint with the Rockies, Weiss watched his sons grow up. He took off four years, coaching baseball and football at their high school in Colorado. Last year, he was also out of the game by choice, spending time with his college baseball-playing sons at North Carolina and UC Santa Barbara.
Then Snitker called.
"Being manager [with the Rockies] and now bench coach, both of those things just happened,'' Weiss said. "I wasn't pursuing either one of them. Sometimes, that's how it happens. I think I needed a break. Now that I'm back, I can really appreciate it.''
Weiss also can appreciate the value of his bench-coach role.
"It helps that I sat in the seat where Snit [Snitker] sits,'' Weiss said. "I have some perspective and probably some empathy with the things he deals with. More than anything, I want to take things off his plate because I know how overwhelming that position can be at times.
"Not only can I be a sounding board, his eyes and ears to some degree, but I can put out some of the little fires that pop up here and there that really don't need to land on the manager's desk.''
"When you're the manager, you spend so much time dealing with the peripheral things,'' Weiss said. "That was the biggest surprise for me -- all the non-baseball things. Then it gets to be 7:05 or whatever and you can actually manage a game.
"That has been one of the joys of spring for me. It's all baseball. When you're the manager, everything you say and do is examined. Sometimes, your words can be used against you. I don't mind not being out in front. If another [managing] opportunity came about? Maybe. But I don't need it to feel fulfilled. I'm really happy and in a very good place right now. Being a big league manager was never my ultimate dream.''
Still, Weiss has fond memories of his exposure to mentors such as La Russa and Cox.
"I got to spend time around some really wise people in this game -- and I even paid attention every once in a while,'' Weiss said with a smile. "Hopefully, it rubbed off. If I can give back some of what people gave to me, that makes it all worthwhile.''
Joey Johnston is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Braves on Saturday.