Alumni: Weitzel and Dry, from Salamanca to Oilers’ dugout
John Dry and Jay Weitzel go back a long time.
Weitzel officially took the Olean Oilers’ head coaching job in March following Bobby Bell’s decision to join a team in New England (Keene Swamp Bats). He had several ties to the team already, including his son Jerico’s work as an assistant coach and his brother, Brad, who has sent players to Olean for the summer from the University of Florida, where he is in his 10th year as an assistant coach. Plus, Weitzel already had an old high school pal on staff in Dry, returning this spring for his fifth year as an Oiler assistant.
“I was three years older than (Dry),” Weitzel said of his fellow Salamancan. “He was a young athlete coming up at Salamanca and you hear about that stuff back then, you policed yourselves and sort of picked on those kids but you watched out for them too. It was like an older brother type of thing. His dad was a real good ballplayer and I knew the whole Dry family.
“It was basically through baseball, when he was a young freshman on varsity and I was a senior. I had been through some arm problems and had to play first and he played third. But he could always hit. That's the thing about him.”
They stayed pals as both went to Canisius College, Weitzel playing football and Dry baseball. Then they’d run into each other in fast-pitch softball, a sport Dry has excelled at for decades earning him a spot in the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame last year. Now the two coaches from Salamanca are tasked with guiding the Oilers through the New York Collegiate Baseball League summer season seeking a third consecutive league title with a much less experienced roster.
Weitzel points to his 17-year tenure as a Major League scout for the Minnesota Twins and says as a coach he can help draft candidates improve their games.
But there's more to their lives, and more to a coach-player relationship, than baseball.
“Usually it's a physical thing. Players that are going to be big-league players pass the eye test pretty easy,” Weitzel said. “It's sort of evaluating them, putting them in a right place to succeed.
“These kids all have a dream of playing pro ball, which is fine, but get that education. I will help four or five of these kids in what they do outside of baseball, outside of their life, guaranteed. The kids at Salamanca I coached in football, (I’m) still an influence in their life. They really respected what I did and those kids really gave me their guts back then.”
Dry and Weitzel haven't officially delineated positional coaching duties