The Start of a New Chapter

The Start of a New Chapter

By Floyd Miller

 

 

 

Remember remember the fifth of September. For that is the day that Texas Ranger’s longtime manager Ron Washington stepped down; marking the exclamation point to what had already been a season full of misery. The winningest manager in club history who guided the Rangers to their only two World Series appearances was no longer going to be the Captain of the ship. After nearly eight seasons, General Manager Jon Daniels was going to have to do something he has only had to do once; look for a new manager. {{ more}}Bench coach Tim Bogar got the first opportunity when he became the interim manager to finish the season out. In the final 22 games, Texas went 14-8, and that certainly helped Bogar’s case during the offseason managerial search. Daniels narrowed down his list to three guys before he made the final choice. The candidates were Tim Bogar, Jeff Bannister, and Kevin Cash. Even though Bogar did an excellent job helping the team finish the season strong, he would be passed over for Jeff Bannister; former Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach. Like Washington before him, Bannister was hired with no prior big league experience as the manager over a team. Also like Washington, what got Bannister the job is his love and passion for the game, genuine desire to establish connections with people, and being willing to teach while leading? The impression he left on Daniels and the team of advisors he worked with was more than just impressive. It was down right perfect. Bannister is a baseball man through and through and a survivor too. He spent 29 seasons with the Pirates organization as a player, and then a coach. Before his professional career began, he played baseball at La Marque High School in La Marque, TX. During his sophomore year there, he developed bone cancer in one of his legs that nearly had to get amputated. Thankfully he was able to recover enough for that not to happen, and he went on to play ball for Lee College. It was there he broke three vertebrae in his neck during a collision at home plate. It left him paralyzed for ten days. After rehabilitating, he made a full recovery and went on to be named a Junior College All-American the next season. He also played for the Houston Cougars, where he was when he was drafted by the Pirates in 1986. He only appeared in one game in the big leagues and collected a hit in his only at bat. Bannister retired as an active player in 1993. From 1994 through 1998, he was a manager for Pittsburgh’s minor league affiliates, and then became a minor league and major league field coordinator from 1999 through 2010. He was considered as a candidate for the vacancy Pittsburgh had at manager prior to the 2011 season. Former Ranger’s hitting coach Clint Hurdle got the job, and Bannister got hired to be their bench coach . He came with a glowing recommendation from Hurdle this offseason during Daniels preliminary search. Besides understanding the human element to the game from being a player, Bannister also embraces –new school- analytics that have become the entire rave these days with scouts and managers. Bannister is very exceptional at relating what the data is telling him and getting the player to understand it. Standing right in the middle, as he put it during his press conference, in between old and new school analytics and style, is a valuable position to hold as the skipper to a big league team. Bridging the proverbial gap between; so called new school stat heads, and old school style and instinct a valuable commodity. His leadership skills and ability to connect to people also prove to make him a worthy successor to Ron Washington. Being a survivor to cancer from an early age, Bannister is an advocate for Major League Baseball’s Stand Up to Cancer yearly initiative. He shares his story with others and encourages other survivors to do the same. “I think all of us need to take the time to spread the word. I can probably look around here and not find one single person who hasn’t been affected in one way or another within one or two family members or someone that we know. Not just me.” He said. “We should all stand up and make it our initiative to make sure everybody knows.”Jeff Bannister has a very strong character and didn’t just leave a great first impression on Jon Daniels; he also made a huge one on special assistant and former Ranger great Michael Young. Young sat in on the interview process and came away with the feeling that “this is our guy.”There is no doubt that the Rangers are starting a new chapter. Gone are most of the guys that were a part of the greatest teams in franchise history, including now the man who guided those great teams. With last season now behind everybody, a fresh start will begin this spring; with a new man in charge. It’s a large task to take on, but Bannister seems like the man up for the task. Being the survivor that he his, he should be just fine. As will the Rangers. Spring training is less than two months away…Follow me on Twitter @mattacly