It's not often that a baseball player makes the leap from high school to the big leagues. It might be even rarer to see a manager make that jump.
Walt Weiss has bucked convention, however.
The former big leaguer and American League Rookie of the Year was named the new manager of the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night. His only managerial experience came this past spring, when he guided Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.)
High School to the Class 5A state semifinals.
"I am trying to get my head around this and over the past few weeks I have come to grips with it," Weiss told The Denver Post. "There are going to be things that I won't foresee that will be part of the job. I will figure things out."
Those who know Weiss don't have any doubt about his ability to make the jump.
"Certain guys you just don't even question," said former Houston Astros All-Star Craig Biggio, who is now the baseball coach at St. Thomas Catholic (Houston, Texas)
. "You know what their make-up is, they're smart people and they'll be fine. Walt is one of those guys. I'm not worried about him at all. He's going to be just fine at it."
Marc Johnson, a legendary prep coach at Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.)
, couldn't praise Weiss enough. He compared Weiss' even-keeled demeanor to New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. He also pointed to Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura and St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who were successful this past season, despite having no prior managerial experience.
"I think the Rockies realized that this is a true manager prospect," said Johnson, whose Bruins defeated Regis Jesuit in the Colorado state semifinals en route to their eighth state title. "I thought Walt was an extremely fun guy to coach against and manage against because he understood the game to the utmost level."
While some Rockies fans may have concerns about Weiss' ability to manage at the big league level after having only done so in high school, Biggio and Johnson have no such reservations.
Baseball isn't like football or basketball, where schemes might be more technical or complicated. Certainly no prep football or basketball coaches have ever made the jump to the pros in a single year. It usually takes at the very least a decade.
"Baseball is baseball," Johnson said. "There isn't a lot of fancy stuff that's incorporated in pro ball that's not already in high school ball or college ball. Strategically, the things are similar. Obviously the arm strength and the speed and so forth of the professional game is faster, but Walt's been there. He's played at the upper level."
Weiss, who turns 49 on November 28, was the 1988 AL Rookie of the Year with the Oakland Athletics and was an All-Star in 1998 with the Atlanta Braves. He played in three World Series, winning in 1989 with the A's, and helped three teams -- Oakland, Colorado and Atlanta -- get to the postseason.
Throughout his 14-year career, Weiss played for Tony LaRussa (third on the all-time wins list for managers) and Bobby Cox (fourth on the all-time list). He also played four seasons for Don Baylor, who had a successful six-year run as the Rockies' first manager from 1993-98.
"How lucky are you as a player to be able to work for people like that?" Biggio said. "Those are some of the best managers in the game, obviously."
Biggio said it's evident in watching and talking to Weiss that his playing experience and opportunity to learn under great managers has shaped his mind.
"He was a very intelligent player, and he'll surround himself by some good people," Biggio said. "Just like a player, you adapt quickly, you learn quickly, you keep your eyes and your ears open and I think Walt is going to be great at it."
Biggio did sound a bit envious of Weiss, because of the duties Weiss won't have to deal with anymore.
"I think the best thing is that he no longer has to take care of the field and order all the uniforms and worry about the traveling ... and all the stuff that he had to do as a high school coach," Biggio joked.
While those duties won't translate to the Rockies dugout, Biggio does believe that Weiss' three years at the high school level (he was an assistant at Regis Jesuit for two years before taking over the head job last spring) will be invaluable.
"The one thing that's really going to suit him strongly is that he's had the opportunity to be around these kids at that age," Biggio said. "The guys (in the majors) are a little bit different nowadays than they were when we played the game. He knows how to relate to them and he knows what to expect. I think that's a huge plus."
It's certainly going to be a different role for Weiss. In an interview with MaxPreps.com during the spring
, Weiss said he was having a lot of fun at Regis Jesuit.
Most importantly, he was enjoying coaching his son, Brody, who is a senior. He has two other sons who are likely to come through the program in coming years. One is a freshman this year and the other is in fourth grade.
At that time, he said, "I don't have any plans to do anything different in the future."
Of course, he didn't think the Rockies would be looking for a manager, either. Whether it's the high school dugout or the Rockies clubhouse, one thing is certain: Weiss will be comfortable in his surroundings.
"It's pretty much all I've done," he said in May. "I always saw myself being involved in the game in some capacity."