Baseball players at Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.)
have managed to coax Walt Weiss into taking batting practice a couple of times.
Weiss isn't about to grab a glove and show off his shortstop skills, though.
"I'd have to go work out for about two weeks before I'd have the nerve to go out there and make sure I didn't embarrass myself," the 48-year-old former Major Leaguer said.
Weiss, who played from 1987-2000 in the majors, is in his first season as the head coach at Regis. The Raiders are the defending Class 5A state champions and recently wrapped up a 15-4 regular season, going 14-1 in their last 15 games.
"I've had a lot of fun this year," he said. "I've probably learned as much or more than the kids."
That's saying something, considering Weiss brings a lifetime of baseball experience to the diamond every day.
For 14 years Weiss was a Major League shortstop. He was the 1988 American League Rookie of the Year and 1989 World Series champion while playing for the Oakland Athletics. He played in four World Series during his career and had successful stops in Florida, Colorado and Atlanta before hanging up his spikes.
Weiss has never really left the game, though. He spent seven years working with the Rockies as a special assistant and has worked as an assistant at Regis the past couple of years. He is one of former several pro players who now serve as a head coach in the prep ranks
"It's pretty much all I've done," he said. "As a kid, I never did anything in the summer but play baseball. I always saw myself being involved in the game in some capacity."
Many of his players didn't get a chance to see Weiss play, but there is still a measure of credibility that comes with his presence in the dugout.
"I think you show up with credibility, but over time the kids will know whether it's warranted or not," Weiss said. "In the end, you have to care for the kids. It's got to be about them or your credibility goes out the window, regardless of what your background is."
Weiss' background would suggest he'd pursue a career in coaching at the professional level. However, with three sons, Weiss made a decision to step away from the major league level after the 2008 season. His oldest son, Brody Weiss
, is a junior starting shortstop for the Raiders.
"It's very special," Weiss said of coaching his son. "It's one of the biggest reasons why I stepped away from the game on the professional side. I just wanted to be around."
Weiss may be around a while, too. He's also got sons in eighth grade and third grade. That would be OK with Weiss, who enjoys teaching the game to the younger generation.
"What makes it neat is they're old enough to really take in some of the finer points of the game and you're involved with them at a time in their lives where they really have most of their goals in front of them," Weiss said. "
Weiss said that watching players develop has been the most rewarding part of the job. He also said that teaching the game is a non-stop job.
"There's not enough time in the day," he said. "There are so many games within the game that a lot of times you end up teaching on the fly over the course of the game when situations arise. The failure aspect of the game is a great teaching tool. Because of the amount of failure built into the game, you have opportunities to try to help kids overcome adversity or flat-out failure."
In fact, Weiss often points out to his players that much of his knowledge stems from his own failures as a player. So far, though, he's experienced a great deal of success with the Raiders.
After Regis won the state title last year, longtime head coach Steve Cavnar retired and most of the key players graduated. Weiss inherited a team that had talent, but essentially only three players with varsity experience. Unlike last year, the Raiders don't have a lineup of powerful hitters, but Weiss believes his talented, deep pitching staff could help the Raiders make a run at another title.
"We don't have a lot of margin for error," he said. "We've got to play real well."
As for his own future, Weiss said he doesn't look too far ahead. He would entertain opportunities to return to pro ball after his kids are older. For now, he's just savoring his first head coaching experience.
"I enjoy doing it, I enjoy the kids, I enjoy the school," he said. "I don't have any plans to do anything different in the future."