Jeff Banister has been waiting to run his team’s spring training workouts since he was hired to be the Texas Rangers manager in October.
Four months seemed like an eternity for him, but when he ran his team’s first workout for the first time in his managerial career, it was Christmas for him. He enjoyed working with the pitchers on the pitchers’ field practice.
The 18th full-time manager never thought in his dreams he would manage a baseball team. He was content being a coach and working with young players. He caught the managing bug when he worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as the Pirates bench coach for the last four years. He played a role in helping Hurdle out with a strategy.
There’s no question Banister’s chances of managing the Rangers was good when Hurdle put in a good word on his bench coach to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. The Pirates manager worked for the Rangers as their hitting coach in 2010, so Daniels certainly trusts his judgment.
What also helped Banister to get the Rangers managerial job was he had a little bit of Ron Washington and Clint Hurdle in him. Daniels wanted a manager who can relate to players like Washington did. He also wanted a manager who was a stickler for details like Hurdle was for the Rangers as their hitting coach. Like the Pirates manager, the new Rangers manager could command the room.
Banister has paid his dues in being a Major League manager. He has spent 29 seasons with the Pirates organization. He was their minor league coordinator for eight years. He managed in the Pirates minor league system in the 90s. He knows a thing or two about player development.
Hurdle said it best when he mentioned his bench coach put forth as much sweat-equity and hard work into the game of baseball as any man he worked with.
It’s a great thing when guys put in the work to be a manager. It’s refreshing the Rangers hire a baseball lifer rather than hire a former Major League player from few years ago to manage, which is the trend most teams are now doing.
There’s something to be said about hiring guys that have paid their dues in managing rather than hire a guy that would attract casual fans.
The Rangers had it right in hiring a baseball lifer in Washington, who knew how to handle the ups and downs in baseball as a role player and a coach for a long time. They feel they had this one right in Banister.
Time will tell if Banister is the right man for the job. The results will speak for themselves.
For Banister, this is a lifetime opportunity for him. This could be now or never for him. If he fails, he will likely never manage a Major League team again. Not with him being 50 years old. Baseball is a young man’s game, so teams will always hire a young manager of the ilk of Rays manager Kevin Cash, who was a finalist for the Rangers managerial job.
Banister knows he has a great opportunity to win with the win-now Rangers team. They still can make the playoffs with an excellent lineup and an efficient starting rotation. Remember this team lost so many players to injuries last year, which is why they finished 67-95. This is where he feels he has to take advantage of.
The new Rangers manager talks about first impression being important and he knows he has to make one right away with his bosses and his players. Only way to do it is win games and know what he is doing in the dugout.
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It will be interesting how he handles his first adversity when his team has a long losing streak this year. If he can handle that test, that will go a long way as a manager. That’s where he will prove his worth.
Right now, Banister does not have to worry about managing a game right now. He is going to enjoy the moment of working with his players while the Rangers are at Sunrise to train.
Sure, he will have the itch to manage a spring training game soon enough. One can only be repetitive in workouts for so long.
This year will be a year Banister won’t forget for better or for worse. It’s always like that for a first-year manager or a first-year player. The first year either makes them or breaks them. It’s a year they will always look back 20 years from now.
It’s been a great ride for this baseball lifer no matter what happens.
He is going to manage an MLB team for the first time in his life. He has survived cancer. He was able to play baseball despite a home plate collision that had him paralyzed. After playing 515 minor league games, he persevered his way to play a major league game in 1991 when he got called up to the show.
He has lived a good life that is worthy of writing a book on his life.
Fun part about all this? There are many more chapters to go now that Banister gets to do what any baseball guy is doing.
Follow or Contact Leslie Monteiro: @nolanwriting201