New Rochester Honkers manager Paul Weidner makes big local splash in recruiting
Randolph native Paul Weidner has made quite a first impression on Honkers' management in the three short months that he's been on the job. He's built a solid roster for the Honkers, who will open their season on Monday. A former local superstar will headline the team's roster.
First-year Rochester Honkers manager Paul Weidner got a little fired up when he got a phone call with the news that former Rochester Century star Mac Horvath –– the University of North Carolina’s current starting third-baseman –– had decided to come home to play for Rochester this summer.
Weidner estimates that two-thirds of his roster was pretty much set in place thanks to the efforts of last year’s manager Deskaheh ‘Bomber’ Bomberry, but he had just three short months to cobble together the rest of the roster and hire a coaching staff after taking the Honkers’ managerial role in February.
Oh, and he was coaching at Creighton throughout the entire timeframe.
So, it’s been a whirlwind for Weidner since he took the job, but the addition of Horvath is a big win for the manager and the team. Bringing Horvath home is a product of a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
“We have a really good team coming in,” Weidner said. "The pitching we have coming in during the last couple of days is fantastic. The roster really came into shape.”
Weidner tabbed Eddie Cribby to serve as the hitting and bench coach. Derek Dahlke was the pitching coach at Southwest Minnesota State University and he’ll take care of the Honkers pitchers this season. And Joe Morris will be a hitting coach and first-base coach.
“I absolutely found what I wanted,” Weidner said. “That was one of the bigger stresses to get these right. The assistants will make or break the summer, no doubt about it. If your assistants are great, the summer is great. If they are not, it's not and it becomes too much work for one person to handle.”
Weidner and his trio of assistants have leaned on their contacts throughout baseball and also made some new connections to fill out their roster. The full roster hasn’t been unveiled and some players will come at different times, as their college seasons wind down, but there’s a different vibe surrounding the roster this year.
It’s sort of like putting together a fantasy baseball team. Coaches have to stockpile pitching. Weidner's staff did just that.
They also needed to find a mix of guys to fill out the lineup. They landed some guys who will put the ball in play and some who will coax walks. They also brought in some big hitters like Horvath. Defensively, Weidner wanted to make sure they had enough balance all over the diamond.
“Based on the spring results, you can get really excited about some of the guys because they’ve had absolutely terrific years,” Weidner said. "But some of the guys who might not have had a really good spring from a stats perspective, I'm still super excited because you talk to these coaches and there obviously is talent and ability there. When they get to summer ball, there’s that different feel and they can just take off. You look forward to seeing who that unexpected guy is who will take off.”
Landing a talent like Horvath is huge because his name carries in Rochester and he’s an elite talent who is already getting attention from MLB scouts.
"I’m not surprised because Rochester is a great place to play that anyone would want to play at,” Weidner said. "The Cape Cod League is a really good league and we’ve been fortunate in the last few weeks to add some players who were planning to go out there, but they decided to come here. For them to consider going to Cape Cod is a testament to the talent that they have and we feel great about Rochester being the spot that they chose to go to.”
Part of that goes back to Weidner’s ability to connect with both players and coaches and showcase the opportunity that Rochester can bring to some of the best players in the country. General Manager Jeremy Aagard believes the Honkers have hit a home run in hiring the Randolph native. They hit it off right away throughout the hiring process and it’s been a match made in heaven in the early going.
"He is truly who I was looking for from his perspective,” Aagard said. "He’s recruited some incredible talent which is wonderful to see. Every business has interviews and some misses and some hits, but hiring Paul was the jackpot.”
Aagard has been working in summer collegiate baseball since 2004, and Weidner did something he never had seen before when he organized a preseason player meeting with everyone on Zoom.
“He put together a handbook and he has the players addressing everyone with Mr. and Mrs.,” Aagard said. “That’s a little thing but it’s almost unheard of. When he says things like that, that tells me that there’s an expectation to hold your head up and we’re going to represent Rochester the right way. It’s old-fashioned but I love how organized he is. I love how involved he is with the players and I love his expectation level.”