DENVER (AP) – Dick Monfort entered the room inside Coors Field to a sound he hasn’t heard in quite some time – applause.
“I’m a little surprised, because people usually don’t clap for me when I walk in,” the Colorado Rockies owner said to a room full of fans on Friday.
Sorry, they were actually reacting to the person following closely behind Monfort – the fan favorite now given the responsibility of resurrecting the Rockies.
Walt Weiss remains quite popular after spending four seasons with the Rockies as a gritty shortstop. And now the team is hoping he can bring that tenacity to his new role as he makes the rare leap from high school coach to major league manager.
He steps in for Jim Tracy and is given the task of turning around a young squad that’s coming off a franchise-worst 64-98 season. To add to that pressure, Weiss has only a one-year deal to transform the team, not to mention a Rockies executive looking over his shoulder from an office right next to his in the clubhouse.
Weiss knows exactly what he’s getting into, fully ready to reward the Rockies’ leap of faith in him.
“There is no question the pink elephant in the room is I haven’t done this before,” Weiss said. “This is a job that I’m going to have to figure out on the fly.”
Prior to this job, Weiss’ only head coaching job was at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., where he led his son’s team to a 20-6 record and a spot in the state semifinals last spring.
Still, Weiss learned from some of the best in the business during his 14-year playing career. He plans to incorporate Tony La Russa’s vision of the game and Bobby Cox’s ability to create a winning culture into his own managerial persona. He will also rely on Pittsburgh skipper Clint Hurdle for some friendly advice from time to time.
“There is a blueprint there for me, on how to deal with players and develop that trust,” he said. “But when it gets down to it, you have to be yourself. When you try to be someone else, it’s fake. And fake doesn’t work, especially with the players.
“Players love real – they know it and they can smell it.”
Although he technically only has a contract for next season, Weiss said he’s not the least bit concerned. He wants to earn his paycheck.
“If you don’t do the job, you’re gone,” Weiss said. “So, that’s of no concern for me. I have to do the job. I have to get a club to play hard and play the game right. That’s all I’m focused on. I could care less about the terms of my contract, to be honest.”
The Rockies feel the same way and don’t really understand all the fuss being made over the one-year deal.
“I don’t think the term of the contract, to me, is a real big issue,” said senior vice president of major league operations Bill Geivett, who occupies an office in the clubhouse.
As a big-league shortstop, Weiss was known for his intensity and passion. He understands he may have to dial it back as a manager.
“You have to keep your emotions in check because guys are watching you,” Weiss said. “I’ll lose my temper from time to time, lose my cool, but that’s just competition.”
His first move on the job was bringing back Tom Runnells as bench coach. Runnells also was a candidate for the manager job when Tracy resigned on Oct. 7 with one year and $1.4 million left on his contract rather than return to a club where he split his clubhouse responsibilities with Geivett.
Other coaches have yet to be decided. Jason Giambi, who also interviewed for the managerial job, could be a serious candidate for the hitting coach position should he choose not to continue his playing career.
Weiss will have help from Geivett, who on Aug. 1 began focusing on roster management, particularly as it related to the pitchers.
Any issues with that arrangement?
“It’s not a great concern of mine,” Weiss said. “I look at it as a great resource for me. He knows the game well. He’s got a sharp mind. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve for me, no matter how much time I’ve been around the game. Twenty-one years at the big-league level and I’ve still never sat in the manager’s seat, so I’m not afraid to say that.
“He’s a guy that I’ll lean on, as well as other guys on our staff, until I find a rhythm on the job. It’s not an issue for me. It’s not a concern.”
Weiss does have the freedom and flexibility to be the kind of manager he envisions.
“No doubt about it,” Geivett said. “Walt has that capability to be a long-term answer … put us on the path of where we want to be.”
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)