Counsell reflects on mirroring Rockies' Weiss
DENVER -- As a player, Brewers manager Craig Counsell didn't spend much time in a Colorado uniform -- four games to be exact. But he still found one Rockies individual who served as the perfect blueprint for his prospering Major League career.
That man was current Rockies manager Walt Weiss, who spent 1994-97 as Colorado's starting shortstop just as Counsell was breaking in. The duo were teammates for part of two seasons, as well as a few Spring Trainings.
They are squaring off this weekend for the first time as managerial foes, and the duo shared fond memories of their time together before Friday's series opener.
"[Weiss] was always the player that I tried to be like as a player, without a doubt," Counsell said. "He was the first player I saw that I tried to say, 'Hey, that's who I want to be when I got into professional baseball.'"
Counsell debuted with the Rockies on Sept. 17, 1995 -- three years after Colorado drafted him in the 11th round. He played in just three games that year. But all of his appearances had some connection to this weekend's managerial counterpart -- Counsell replaced Weiss in a double-switch twice and pinch-hit for him once.
Over the next season and a half, Counsell spent most of his time in Triple-A before being shipped to the Marlins in July 1997. But in that time frame, Weiss still left his mark on the up-and-coming infielder from Notre Dame.
"Walt was the starting shortstop, so you watch how people do their job and what skills they bring to the table," Counsell said. "That was the first player I saw that if I can do that, I can play in the big leagues and have a long career if I can get good at the things he's good at.
"He took this hitting approach where he would just see pitches, see pitches, see pitches, draw walks, just get on base and keep the line moving. I always thought he was really good at that. His offensive approach really fit what I thought I could do."
Counsell's career took off after leaving Denver. He played an integral role on two World Series-winning teams before finishing his playing days in 2011. Like Weiss, Counsell is still early in his managerial career, having taken over the Brewers just last month.
Hours before their first Denver meeting as managers, Weiss happily recalled their Denver playing days as well.
"[Counsell] was a gamer, very professional," Weiss said. "Always felt like he and I had some things in common as far as the way we played the game, the way we saw the game.
"So he's a guy I have a lot of respect for. It's great to see him back in uniform. I always thought there'd be a point where he'd be back in uniform. I think he's at home in the dugout."