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Weinstein's new challenge: managing Israel

Former Rockies coach trying to guide new team into WBC tournament @TracyRingolsby

Jerry Weinstein is an admitted baseball lifer, always looking for a new challenge, even as he nears his 74th birthday.

Weinstein has coached at the college and junior college levels, worked in the Minor Leagues and spent time on the Rockies' big league staff. He was on the U.S. Olympic baseball coaching staff in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and 1996 in Atlanta.

Jerry Weinstein is an admitted baseball lifer, always looking for a new challenge, even as he nears his 74th birthday.

Weinstein has coached at the college and junior college levels, worked in the Minor Leagues and spent time on the Rockies' big league staff. He was on the U.S. Olympic baseball coaching staff in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and 1996 in Atlanta.

Now Weinstein is taking on the challenge of managing the Israel team in the World Baseball Classic Qualifying Tournament next weekend in Brooklyn, N.Y., hoping to advance to the WBC tournament in South Korea next March.

Weinstein will have Major League help on his coaching staff, which includes former big league catcher/manager/coach Jerry Narron and former big league pitcher Andrew Lorraine.

Weinstein was the subject of this week's Q&A: How did the opportunity to manage the Israel team come about?

Weinstein: I was supposed to do it in 2012, but I was in the big leagues with the Rockies that year, so I couldn't do it. Brad Ausmus took my place. I had been to Israel in 2005. I coached Team USA in the Maccabiah Games, which are the Jewish Olympics. Through that, I developed a relationship with some of the people in the Israel baseball association there. You have a roster of guys with professional experience. Is that an edge?

Weinstein: Sure, but so do the teams from Great Britain and Brazil, and we've got a lot of question marks, because we've got a lot of old guys on there who really haven't done a whole lot baseball-wise lately, guys like Josh Satin, Ike Davis and Jason Marquis, but we've got some names, and it's a short series. Anything could happen in a short series. I'm optimistic. Does an event like that create an interest in Israel?

Weinstein: I think it can if we can win, and we are expecting to win. They have a real fledgling baseball program that is tremendously underfunded and understaffed. If we qualify for the WBC next spring, it will provide some resources for them in terms of financing to build facilities and hire new staff and heighten people's awareness, and maybe they will participate and contribute and be part of the process. Building baseball in Israel is similar to the way soccer has been built in the United States, from the ground up. Do you feel you have a chance for a home-field advantage playing in the qualifier in Brooklyn?

Weinstein: I think so, given the Jewish population in that area. What kind of an approach do you have to use with a team in the WBC? You have a week with everybody together. Is that all?

Weinstein: Actually, we have three days, so I've been sharing a lot of emails and stats and stuff. It's basically not trying to do too much. You try to put guys in position to be successful and not ask them to do something they can't do. It is different than a Major League season. It's not like we're kicking anybody to the edge. We're just trying to put them in a comfort zone and make sure that their preparation is their normal preparation in terms of batting practice and things like that. There is no magic to this. It's pretty much getting good teammates and hope that they play well. And you've been working on putting this team together for a year?

Weinstein: Yeah, there's a lot of Jewish players out there that you will not identify as a Jewish player because maybe they don't have a Jewish surname, but they have a grandparent that's Jewish, or mother or father. Maybe they're not practicing Jews, but they qualify under the heritage rules. I saw you managed in the Cape Cod League last summer and also worked with the Rockies. How did that come about?

Weinstein: It was in instructional league two years ago. I was talking to Mike Roberts, who was a coach at North Carolina, and he works for the Cubs. He's their roving baserunning guy, and he coaches in the Cape during the summer. I said, "Man, what a great gig that is ... if you ever hear of anything, keep me in mind." He said those jobs never open up. So I didn't even think about it. Then he called me in August and says, "Hey, this guy from Wareham is going to call you and talk to you about coaching in the Cape." A year ago, I was the supervisor with the Rockies' High-A affiliate in Modesto. After I got the call from Mike, the Rockies' farm director, Zack Wilson, came in and wanted to talk about me being the supervisor again this year.

I said, "Well, I don't know." He said, "Getting ready to retire?" I said, "No, this guy from the Cape called me and asked me if I'd be interested in managing during the summer." I said I'd kind of like to do it. I didn't want to stop working for the Rockies, but I wanted to do something like that. It's really interesting. I asked if there is a way that I can continue to work at least part-time and do that and scouting and player development with the Rockies, maybe help the scouts cover the Cape League.

Zack and the Rockies' scouting director, Bill Schmidt, got together, and I ended up going to Spring Training and then going out to Modesto and doing some stuff with that team. Then I went out for Bill Schmidt for about five or six weeks and saw all the top catchers in the country and did a lot of scouting. Then I managed in the Cape. And after this qualifying tournament for the World Baseball Classic, I'll go to the instructional league with the Rockies. I'm not going to go back to the Cape next year, but I'll probably spend more time working for the Rockies in various different capacities between scouting and player development. When you think back to your youth in Los Angeles, were there Jewish athletes who impacted you?

Weinstein: I was a Dodgers fan, so I was drawn to Sandy Koufax and the Sherry brothers, Larry and Norm. The fact Koufax didn't pitch in the `65 World Series on Yom Kippur really hit me. I though that was significant that his religion was that important to him. How did you get into coaching?

Weinstein: All along when I was playing at UCLA and in the Minor Leagues, I knew I was a bad player, and I knew I wanted to stay in the game. So I always looked at things from a perspective of when I coach some day and how would I handle things. I always played and coached youth league teams -- Little League, Pony League, American Legion. I would play and then I'd have a team going at the same time, so I always had a lot of irons in the fire. I always looked at things from a teaching perspective as opposed to, "What can I do to make myself a better player?" I didn't think that was going to work too well. Do you have any particular thing that stands out in that coaching career that was more satisfying than other things?

Weinstein: I get satisfaction out of everything I do, but certainly the time I spent at Sacramento City College, almost 25 years. We built a program from the ground up, and we built an exceptionally good program in terms of matriculating players into professional baseball and to four-year colleges. We built a great facility and we won a lot. We had good coaches and good kids. We developed as many coaches as we did kids. There's a lot of Sac City guys that are making their mark and teaching and coaching right now.

Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for

Colorado Rockies