Tyler Today April/May 2017 : Page 156
tylertoday sports BASEBALL TIME in TEXAS by Bill Coates Sports Director/Sportstalk Host “The Team” Sports Radio 92.1 FM KTBB Newsradio 97.5 FM The Texas Rangers open the 2017 Major League baseball season as the two-time defending American League Western Division champions. Jeff Banister has obviously made a huge impact as the team’s manager since taking the reins on October 16, 2014. Banister was born in Oklahoma, but grew up in the Southeast Texas town of LaMarque. He has battled bone cancer, had seven surgeries on his left ankle and leg and was temporarily paralyzed in a home plate collision at Baytown Junior College. Jeff Banister is obviously not afraid to face a challenge. During Banister’s tenure, the Rangers are 2 for 2 during the regular season, but 0 for 2 in the playoffs after back-to-back first round losses to the Toronto Blue Jays. His message to his team this year is, “Unfinished Business.” The Texas Rangers obviously want to finally capture their first World Series championship. I spent a week in March with the Rangers at Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona for 92.1 FM “The Team” Sports Radio and Newsradio 97.5 FM KTBB. We sat down with Banister to discuss the road ahead for the 2017 season. Coates: What do you love about this job? Banister: I love everything about it. I consider it the best job in the world. I get to do this! I don’t have to do this. It’s a baseball game. It’s something that I tried to do as a player when I was five years old. I love the people. I love the fans, the travel, but more than anything else, I love watching players compete, grow and fight for something. Coates: You’re trying to put a team together. How much fun is it to put this puzzle together for the season? Banister: First of all, it’s extremely challenging. Second of all, it’s heartbreaking in some sense. There are guys who have been competing for a job. Some of them will be released and some of them will be heading to the minor leagues. Each 156 APRIL / MAY 201 7 player carries a lot of hope and a lot of dreams with them. I’m the guy who has to tell some of those players they have to keep working. I have to tell some of those guys, “Thank you, but no thank you.” The other part is trying to find the twenty-five players that we can put together for an opening day roster that we feel are going to compete together, complement each other, play well and win baseball games in the early stages of a baseball season. We know that those twenty-five may not be the twenty-five that are going to be there in the middle or at the end. It’s about getting other players enough repetition so we can see them and have confidence to know that, if we need to promote them in the middle of the season, they will be able to help us compete. Coates: You have your share of stars with the Rangers. Are stars as important as having a flexible team? Banister: No, it’s the flexibility. We want the stars. We want guys who are great players who are going to go out and perform. It is about the flexibility. It’s finding guys who can play multiple positions. It’s a 162 game season. Nobody plays 162 games anymore. We are smarter now in the sense that we know players need rest. We know they perform at a higher rate when they’ve had some of that rest. The other part of that is the flexibility to have players in the minor leagues that we’ve developed who are ready to come up and play for us in a time of need. I think J.D. (Rangers President and General Manager Jon Daniels) has done a great job in that way. I think our coaching staff does a great job every year in spring training in identifying those players they feel like can help us throughout the year. They really stress and challenge the players at spring training. I think one of the things we’ve been best at during the last two years is finding those players that have come up during the middle part of the season, and even at the end of the season, who have helped us win games.