By Nick Pantages
The life of a minor league baseball player is often fluid and turbulent, but Jack Weinberger has taken full advantage of every opportunity he has gotten.
Weinberger’s journey from small-town pitcher in Sunapee, N.H., to the professional ranks could not be completed without his time on Alden Street.
Weinberger always wanted to be a PE teacher, and knew Springfield was the place for him.
“I like sports, I like being active. I remember coming to Springfield for the first time, and there was a bunch of people playing games outside… it just seemed like me,” Weinberger said.
Arriving onto the campus in the fall of 2014, Weinberger knew he wanted to play baseball at Springfield College. Despite not being recruited, he made the team during the tryout.
His willingness to improve is what he thinks helped him achieve this.
“I was coachable. I listened, I took people’s feedback, and tried to implement it to the best of my ability,” Weinberger said.
After struggling for his first two years, a conversation he had with coach Brandon Kincaid changed his fortunes. Kincaid told Weinberger to convert to being a sidearm pitcher, instead of the over-the-top motion he had used his whole life. Weinberger recalls Kincaid telling him, “You might as well try something different and see if it works or not.”
He used this new motion to excel in a bullpen role for the Pride his last two years.
Following his graduation in the spring of 2018 with a degree in Physical Education, Weinberger landed a job as a middle school P.E. teacher in Miami at Palmer Trinity School. He had found a job he loved, and he had “hung ‘em up” on his baseball career.
However, the urge came back for Weinberger. “As the spring started to roll around, I thought how much I missed baseball,” he said.
During his time off from the sport and as a teacher, Weinberger said he started to eat better, lift more, and gain weight and muscle mass, something that helped him as a pitcher, while still throwing to keep his arm ready.
Finally, an opportunity presented itself.
“I met this guy at the airport, I threw a water bottle into the trash and he said something to me and we started talking, “ Weinberger said. “[It] turned out he was a baseball scout.”
The scout helped Weinberger get picked up by a team in Puerto Rico, called the Puerto Rico Islanders. Weinberger thought of the experience as an exciting summer activity to make up for him not teaching.
However, after an incredible season during which he posted an earned run average under 1, his confidence grew.
“I was like damn, I can do this,” Weinberger said.
He returned to teaching after his time in Puerto Rico, and then the pandemic happened. He got a connection with a team called Black Sox Pro Baseball of the Yinzer league, another independent baseball league.
Through this, Weinberger struggled, but learned a lot.
“There was a lot of talent…it was a learning curve for me,” he said. “I was getting hit.”
After the season, with his dream still alive, Weinberger distributed film to all the Frontier League teams, the lowest of three independent leagues funded by the MLB. After being picked up by a Canadian team, he was told he could not play because U.S. citizens were not allowed to cross the Canadian border.
He then connected with Jared Lemieux, a Springfield College grad, and a bench coach for the New Jersey Jackals, of the same league.
After pitching well, and being surrounded by MLB caliber players, Weinberger recalls being called into his manager’s office. He was told about a team in the Atlantic League — the highest level of independent baseball — called the West Virginia Power, who needed a relief pitcher. When asked if he wanted to play, Weinberger said, “Hell yeah!”
Getting to West Virginia, he was impressed with the talent surrounding him.
“Our bullpen was filled with dudes that have MLB experience,” Weinberger recalls.
After his short but successful stint with the Power, Weinberger made the decision to pursue baseball as a full time career. He moved to Los Angeles to train at a facility called MIMO Elite Athletics, where he also works in the offseason.
After a full season with the Lexington Genomes, also of the Atlantic League, Weinberger is now in position to make the next step into affiliated minor league baseball.
“I have a couple showcases coming up for affiliated teams and hoping to sign an affiliated contract and show up to MLB Spring Training,” he said.
Through all the twists and turns that his career has brought, Weinberger will continue to bring his hard working attitude to the table in order to reach his dreams.
However, without his time at Springfield College, Weinberger believes he would not be where he is today.
“I just don’t think I would have gotten an opportunity to play at many other schools. When I came in, I really was not good,” he said.
Weinberger’s journey through the murky uncertainty of minor league baseball can show to all the importance of hard work and how nothing is ever impossible. The message is best delivered by Weinberger.
“Take advantage of your opportunities.”
Photo Courtesy Jack Weinberger