ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jeff Banister envisioned being part of a World Series at Globe Life Field even before ground was broken for construction of the retractable-roof stadium that is the home of the Texas Rangers.
That dream is being realized now, just happening in a different role than expected for the bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks — and former Rangers manager.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Banister said. “To watch from the design phase, to be able to walk into this is pretty incredible.”
Banister was manager from 2015-18, during the span when the Rangers announced plans for a new stadium and began building it. But he was fired long before they ever played a game there, so he was on the visiting side when the NL champion Diamondbacks opened this surprise World Series matchup of wild-card teams with Games 1 and 2 in Texas.
“The only mixed emotions I have is that we weren’t able to get it done when I was here,” Banister said. “That’s a missed opportunity for us at that time.”
When the Rangers publicly revealed their stadium plans in 2016, Banister was in the second season of his only managerial job. He was the reigning AL Manager of the Year after they had won the AL West title in his debut, and were on the way to repeating as division champions though they lost again in the division round. He was consulted about certain aspects of the $1.2 billion stadium, including the turf.
Ground was broken in late September 2017, a year before Banister was fired near the end of a 95-loss season. That was still 22 months before the Rangers’ debut at Globe Life Field in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You know how much pride that I wore that jersey and that uniform, and what it meant to me to show up every night for the people in North Texas and just the state of Texas and the fans of the Rangers. That will never fade away for me,” Banister said. “However, the Arizona Diamondbacks, I feel the same way when I put this uniform on. I have just as much pride, but I still love the people here. It’ll still a part of the fabric of who I am.”
The only players still on the Texas roster from Banister’s final season are pitchers Matt Bush, Jose Leclerc and Martín Pérez.
One of his closest friends, third base coach Tony Beasley, is the only remaining member on the coaching staff. They were minor league teammates, spring training roommates and instructors together in the Pirates organization, and Beasley said it’s good to see Banister back in the dugout.
“I told him yesterday, look where we are, it’s awesome for both of us to have the opportunity to be here in the World Series,” Beasley said before Game 2 on Saturday. “He and I both said the unfortunate thing is one of us has to win and one of us has to lose. But no matter what, we’re still going to be happy for each other and glad we have the opportunity to share this stage together.”
Banister is a baseball lifer who before getting hired by Texas spent 29 years with the Pirates as a player, coach and instructor at all levels. He played 515 minor league games in their system, had a pinch-hit single in his only big league at-bat in July 1991 and was Pittsburgh’s bench coach for four seasons.
He returned to the Pirates as a special assistant in baseball operations after getting fired by Texas but was let go because of front-office cutbacks during the pandemic in the summer of 2020. He then spent a year working with the University of Northern Colorado, where his son was playing, before a call from Arizona manager Torey Lovullo, whose team was coming off a 110-loss season.
Two years later, the Diamondbacks are in the World Series.
“He’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me in my managerial career. I’ve had unbelievable people around me that helped teach me, drive me, posture me. Jeff Banister has changed our culture in every way that we have wanted him to help and assist in that way,” Lovullo said. “At times I feel like he does a better job than me.”
The 59-year-old Banister, who grew up close to Houston as the son of a high school football coach, would like the chance to be a manager again. He was a finalist for the Astros job that went to Dusty Baker before the 2020 season, and that position is open again after Baker’s retirement this week.
“I still have that desire, yes. I don’t think that’ll ever leave,” Banister said. “But, you know, I’m in a great place with where I’m at and helping Torey and this organization do what we’ve done.”
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