A desire to teach never really goes away, even after 35 years on major-league coaching staffs.
For Larry Rothschild, whose work as a pitching coach spanned five major-league teams, including the Chicago Cubs, helping players improve remains a passion. It’s what made his new role so appealing.
Rothschild has joined the Windy City ThunderBolts in the independent Frontier League as a pitching consultant. The position will be a work in progress throughout the season, but Rothschild expects to be with the ThunderBolts during spring training and to get eyes on the pitching staff one time through the rotation every month. From there, the work becomes individualized to best help each pitcher.
Rothschild’s addition to the ThunderBolts unites him with former Chicago White Sox closer and World Series champion Bobby Jenks, who took over in October as the Windy City manager.
“It’s really just to help out any way I can,” Rothschild told the Tribune. “Having a couple of conversations with Bobby Jenks, I look forward to working with him because he’s really fully invested in this. He cares about the players he’s going to manage, and the conversations have been pretty enlightening.”
Rothschild, 69, credited Scott Proefrock, the president of New England Baseball LLC, for bringing him to the ThunderBolts, a relationship born from their paths crossing in Major League Baseball. Proefrock most recently spent 13 years as an assistant general manager for the Philadelphia Phillies.
A return home also piqued Rothschild’s interest in the consulting role. The ThunderBolts’ stadium in south suburban Crestwood is less than 10 miles from where Rothschild grew up in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood.
This marks Rothschild’s first foray back into baseball after the San Diego Padres fired him in August 2021. Since then Rothschild spent more time with his children, traveled, played golf and other things “I didn’t have time to do, which was great.”
“It takes a while to adjust when you go from one thing to retirement as quickly as that, but I enjoyed it,” Rothschild said. “Getting back in on a limited basis is good. Having a year or two off is not the worst thing in the world to get perspective and take a deep breath. So a lot of it was good, and now we can help make some players and pitchers better and that’s what it’s all about.”
The 2024 season will be Jenks’ first with the ThunderBolts and his third coaching in professional baseball.
“It’s a privilege to be able to work with these guys and be able to share what I know and do what I love to do and just be around baseball,” Jenks told the Tribune. “Having the opportunity now to work with somebody like Larry, it’s a real honor and I’m very lucky and fortunate and blessed that I have this opportunity to learn from him to better my game on the coaching and managerial side, especially the pitching side.
“Between all of us, we have the same vision, and it’s to make these guys the best players they can be and win.”
Jenks, 42, knew he wanted to get into coaching while he still was playing. He spent five of his six big-league seasons with the White Sox and posted a 2.75 ERA as a rookie in 2005, the year they won the World Series. He recorded 173 saves and a 136 ERA+ in a Sox uniform before injuries and a surgical complication in 2011 ended his career.
Jenks said he loves working in the Frontier League and trying to help players who are hungry get to that next level with an affiliated minor-league team. He understands how hard the journey can be to make it to the majors – and stick.
“I have a policy where I’m not going to BS these guys,” Jenks said. “If they stink, I’m going to tell them. I’m also going to do it in a way to show them how to get better and try to teach them what it takes. Show them the road that they need to be on if they’re not on it.
“Whatever it may be, just being able to show them what it takes, tell them what it takes and be able to use what they know now and try to make them better.”