Sunday Q&A with Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein

Modesto's manager wants to help Nuts become better players

06/22/2008 3:10 AM

06/22/2008 3:13 AM

The first half of the California League season ended with Jerry Weinstein's career win total as manager of the Modesto Nuts standing at 110.

And the second half opened with Weinstein, 62, continuing to not care one iota about his career win total.

At one time in his coaching career, guiding teams to wins and losses was Weinstein's job and passion. As head coach at Sacramento City College, his teams won 831 games and a state championship over 23 seasons.

He also has coached at Cal Poly and served a director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Weinstein left Cal Poly, and his home in San Luis Obispo, to take the reins of the Modesto Nuts in 2007. Like this year, the 2007 Nuts struggled to a 34-36 first-half record, but surged in the second half to finish with a 76-64 mark before falling in the first round of the California League playoffs.

Yes, Weinstein remains a keen competitor. He still enjoys winning. But more than that, his personal and professional joy comes from watching the young players in the Colorado organization develop into Rockies.

Brian VanderBeek: You coached all those games in college before you took on the manager's role here in Modesto. How is the game itself different between the levels?

Jerry Weinstein: The game itself doesn't change a whole lot. The game always will tell you what to do in different variables. Here, development is always the top variable. Managing the game is not the biggest difference. There's more stand back and hit in pro baseball. In college baseball there are more opportunities to create runs. The strategy of the game is not significantly different. The real difference is how you manage the people.

The difference between Sacramento City College and Modesto is that at the city college we had tremendous internal competition. The players always did what they needed to do to help the team. I'm not saying that doesn't happen here, but here, with a 25-man roster those guys know they're going to be in the lineup. With internal competition, we had an extremely high level of focus and very competitive practices. We have that here, but not to the same degree.

BVB: And following that same line, at the college level it's all about winning.

JW: The most important thing was the scoreboard. It was a team win. The scoreboard was everything, and every move I made was based on trying to have a positive outcome on the scoreboard.

BVB: Certainly once you step on the field here you're a competitor and every one of these guys wants to win, but at day's end, the scoreboard is not as important as it was at Sac City.

JW: If we lose and enough people get better, we've had a great day. If we win and no one gets better, or no one takes a small step toward the big leagues, we have not had a good day.

BVB: That was the part of this minor league experience I understood right away, but it took me years to figure out how that philosophy manifested itself on the field. Development over outcome sounds like a very simple concept, but it's not.

JW: In college baseball, that one day, that moment you win, is everything. Here, there's a tunnel, and what's important is at the end of your journey through that tunnel, you're ready to go. You have to fail to succeed. In college, we'd play 100 games in the fall and do all our failing there. We'd lose in the fall to succeed in the spring. Here, you lose in the minor leagues to succeed in the big leagues. You have to experience those failures. You can't always go to your strengths at this level, because at the next level those strengths might not carry you. You have to throw pitches at this level that maybe you're not confident with, that maybe will get hit, because you have to develop that pitch to be successful with it at the next level. We're not just developing guys who can get to the big leagues and be a part of a 25-man roster, we're developing guys who can be pieces to a world championship team.

BVB: You said when you were first introduced that it took an organization like the Rockies to put you in this chair.

JW: There's no doubt that's true. Their philosophy and mine are the same in terms of development, discipline and responsibility. This is a character organization. All the people in this organization are of high character and they're all devoted to the development of the player. This is not a big turnover organization. In every company, getting the right people on the bus and keeping them there is very important.

BVB: I've never asked you this question. Why are you doing this? You had all this success at Sac City and I'm sure you could draw a nice retirement after having been there for so long. You could coach at Cal Poly and spend your summers on the beach. Why did you take on this challenge?

JW: I like it. At this stage in my life I don't do anything I don't want to do. I want to do this. I enjoy it. I like the challenge. I enjoy the marriage between winning and developing winning players, and that's ultimately what we're trying to do. I don't do this for the money. I don't do this for my ego. I have no desire to coach or manage at any other level than this. It would be fine with me if I stayed here the rest of my life. Do I enjoy every minute of every day, no, but that's part of the challenge.

BVB: If you're here for five or six years I'll be coming in and congratulating you every hundredth win or so.

JW: You'll be the only one counting those wins and losses, because I'm not. My job is to move the players.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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