Winter Meetings interview with Jeff Banister

Q. One of Major League Baseball's big initiatives has been Stand Up 2 Cancer. Now that you have an even higher profile job, do you want to use that platform to spread the word that you have always seemed to be willing to do?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Absolutely. No, that's a great question. 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, but I have a grandmother that died of brain cancer. I have a mother‑in‑law that's had breast cancer. I have an aunt who's had stomach cancer.

            So, yeah, I think we all should stand up and make it our own initiative to make sure that everybody knows.

 

            Q. What do you tell people about it? What's your basic message?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, I'll tell you this. I think that if all of us made anybody who is affected with this, took the opportunity to make it as positive as we possibly can every day around these human beings that they're dealing with, with such a cruel disease ‑‑ there was a man by the name of Bob Brody that wrote a book, and he talked about how athletes have a greater opportunity. He felt like athletes have a greater opportunity to beat this disease. I believe that positive thinking, positive atmosphere helps beat cancer. It doesn't get rid of it, but it helps. Because the body gets riddled, and beaten up, and destroyed enough just trying to kill the disease let alone get cured.

            So I believe that we can do our own due diligence and make sure that the people that we know that are affected, that we try to make each day as positive as we can for them.

 

            Q. Offense was down the last few years, and one thing notable this year is offenses didn't heat up with the weather. That the run scoring environment got worse. Is there anything that a club can do to counteract that, maybe platooning to keep guys fresher? Any thoughts on that at all?

            JEFF BANISTER:  I think we've gotten a lot better with all of the data that we're capable of collecting now with not only just statistics, but how players perform. How they perform after days off. How they perform in extended times where it's day after day, four days in a row, five days in a row, ten days in a row.

            So being aware of how we utilize players, charting this at a greater rate and making sure that we give our players ample opportunity to get off their legs and freshen up as much as they can. This is a 162‑game marathon, 7.5 months.

            But the other thing on the other side of that is that if you go back and look and chart how many of these hitters would get out of their power stroke from time to time, and start driving the ball the other way against these shifts, there are a few more hits on the other side of the diamond too.

 

            Q. Can you talk about your evaluation of instant replay system from your perspective, what your role was last season? Is there any way you can learn from that and how you can apply it with the Rangers?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Great question. I don't know if I can evaluate it for you, but I can tell you it was an ongoing process. Something that we learned from in Pittsburgh, utilizing the replay system, learning really what close plays, as we've looked at them and deemed them extremely close, there was a value to them. Also just being able to track the leverage of the play, whether or not it warranted taking a chance or not. I think everybody learned a lot from the whole replay system. We learned to be patient also.

 

            Q. Do you know who your replay guys are going to be? Have you set that up yet or that kind of thing?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, we have a group of men in Arlington in the video room, one that's had experience that was there last year that did the replay system. I'll sit down with everybody and also sit down with Steve, and we'll figure out who the best person is to run the replay phone and video screen.

 

            Q. What has it been like to go to a new organization after being at the same organization your whole career and have to learn all the personnel and new people?

            JEFF BANISTER:  You know what? The very first few days, it was overwhelming. You just don't turn 29 years off. One, I wanted to be able to honor the Pirate organization and everybody within the organization and all the fans that had ‑‑ one, they've grown me up. They've helped raise my kids. They've been with me through every wedding anniversary I've ever had. They helped me bury my father, my grandmother and celebrate birthdays. So that was the first thing that I wanted to do is to say thank you.

            Second, it was trying to get to know everybody within the organization and taking the time and finding the proper way to introduce myself. I'm still in that process. I haven't gotten to everybody. Hopefully I will before the end of the year. That's players, front office development system, anybody connected within the organization. But it's a long process and one that I'm glad I get to do.

 

            Q. You grew up in this game as a National League player and as a National League coach. What is it like now at the pinnacle of the coaching world to shift gears and then go to the American?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, I mean, still experienced at it. I mean, we've played in American League ballparks. We use a DH, and coming up through the Minor League system, you don't get to use ‑‑ the pitcher doesn't hit until you get to Double‑A, and you have to be facing other National League clubs, so every game you play is an American League style game.

            So I don't think the transition will be that challenging. Still nine players, still 27 outs, still got to score at least one more run than your opponent.

 

            Q. What is on your agenda right now for the next couple of weeks? What are you trying to get accomplished as the manager?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, I'd like to get some face time with prince. I'd really like to do that so he and I can sit down. We've met before on the field in different uniforms. I'd love to do that. I'd love to continue the process of making the phone calls. It's not just to introduce myself, but there are follow‑up phone calls with each player. I'd like to get together with the entire staff now that we have the whole staff in place. We can spend a few days together where we can map out things that we want to do for the rest of the off‑season, but playing going into spring training.

 

            Q. You are you going to the Dominican in January?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Yes, I am.

 

            Q. When you say get some face time with Prince, do you expect that to be the face of something in Arlington or are you planning to go to Florida?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, I'll go to Florida. It doesn't matter. And I do plan probably that is the best way to do it because I know that for a player to put in the time that he needs to put in on a daily basis and to be able to be at home and be with his family and do the things that he needs to do, that time is precious. So I'm not going to ask him to travel. I'll do the traveling.

 

            Q. So after two months roughly, what do you learn the most and what is the biggest concern?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, I like the core players that we have within the organization. From top to bottom, when you look at the composition of the 40‑man roster, and when you look at Beltre, Anders, Fielder, Choo, Darvish, Holland, Martin, Odor, Chirinos, when you look at ‑‑ Scheppers. When you look at that core group, the guys that are going to show up to Spring Training, they're not necessarily competing for anything. They're just getting ready. Those are solid Major League players.

            I've said this before, you flip over their bubble gum card and they've done some pretty significant things in this game. So healthy and ready to play. I mean, that's a pretty good core group of players.

            Then you look on down further on the depth chart, and you start looking at some of the nice, young players that are coming. There is a wave of players within the organization that have the significant chance of being really nice Major League players. Some of them the opportunity to possibly impact players at one point.

 

            Q. A concern?

            JEFF BANISTER:  It's the same concern every other team has. When you have injured players, you never know until you lay your eyes on them and you get them out on the field. You see how they react, how their body reacts, and how the injury is actually healed up.

 

            Q. Is there anything you weren't expecting when you took over this job, anything that when you started going through the process that surprised you?

            JEFF BANISTER:  I don't think ‑‑ you know, you can have expectations. Expectations, I think all of it surprises you because it's all new. I don't know that any of it wasn't necessarily some form of a surprise. You just don't know what's coming next. From the time I walked through the door into the press conference, I mean, you can't prepare yourself for that. I mean, all the flashing bulbs and the cameras. There is no class for it. So you learn to roll with each day and continue to learn from each individual experience.

 

            Q. You said you wanted to get some face time with Prince. Have you talked with him at all?

            JEFF BANISTER:  You know, we exchanged texts, yes. That's one thing. I will tell you that each player, what I have done is I've sent out a ‑‑ thank goodness for ‑‑ I used to not like to text at all. Now I enjoy it, by the way. No, really. I sent out a text to each one of them. Because, again, their time is valuable. Setting up times that are best for them, to call them. I don't want to interrupt them if they're sitting down to dinner with their kids, their wife and interrupt that time.

            We've exchanged some texts back and forth that ‑‑ some times would be better to talk on the phone. So we're setting up that time currently.

 

            Q. You heard your general manager say that the biggest way this team can get better is internally and for all those core players to come back healthy. And maybe no player means more than Prince and the power he brings. Is there a general message that you are hoping to relay to him or that you're trying to hear from him?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, it's a relationship building process more than anything else. This is taking the time for me to start building that relationship with Prince, that trusting relationship between the two to where when I speak to him, he hears the truth from me. He gets what he needs from me. I learn what he does need from me more than anything.

 

            Q. So from across the diamond, what did you see? What kind of player is Prince Fielder in your mind?

            JEFF BANISTER:  He's a man. He came and played hard every day, ran down the line hard. He was always active. I tell you what, you paid attention to where he was in the lineup and when he was coming to the plate. Just a man that he made pitchers change how they pitched to the hitter in front of him as well as the ones behind him.

            I mean, this is a guy that has an impact on the game. When he's healthy and he's right, he has definite impact on the game.

 

            Q. Can you talk a little bit about the depth you have on the middle infield, Profar, Andrews, Odor?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Odor, Sardinas. It's nice to have depth in the middle of the diamond and quality depth at that. I mean, guys that can play shortstop, guys that can jump over and play second base. Not every team has that luxury. Everybody has players that they can run out there in the middle of the diamond and play from time to time. But to have the quality skills that all these young men bring, it's a luxury.

 

            Q. I imagine you feel excitement and anticipation on so many different levels with what you're going through. Is part of the anticipation being in the same division as your hometown team, and going up with the other you had interviewed with?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Oh, absolutely. No, the anticipation is putting the uniform on and getting dirt under my shoes. Smelling the pine tar, hearing the bat and the ball, and watching men run around on the diamond competing, that is the anticipation for me. Really, every time we play another team there is going to be some anticipation from me because it will be brand new for me every time we play them for the first time. Whether it's Houston, whether it's Oakland, whether it's New York. So, yeah, I wouldn't be sad if Opening Day was tomorrow?

 

            Q. To go back on Prince one time. I realize this is the obvious question, but what is the significance of him in your lineup and to this team?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, they're all significant. Every last one of them. You can't play without a complete 25. So you don't want to overplay any one guy. But I mean, he's an impact player. He's a power threat. He's an RBI threat. He changes the dynamic of how other teams play against you, how they use your bullpen. Every time you look up, you put a guy in your lineup that you hit the ball out of the ballpark, drive in runs, you pay attention to them.

 

            Q. It seems as if his numbers might be down a couple of years before he got hurt. Is that misleading?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Whether it's ‑‑ I'm not going to get into whether it's misleading or not. You know, I didn't watch him play last year. I've seen some video. I know that the man was injured. I know what I've seen him do in the past. Go back and look at the numbers against the Pittsburgh Pirates of what Prince Fielder did. My view of him is pretty good. Didn't like it at the time because he was doing it against us, but.

 

            Q. Have you spent time with Darvish?

            JEFF BANISTER:  I had a great conversation with Darvish this past week. Watched him workout. Not throwing, he's not throwing yet. He's doing all physical activities, running, weight routines. Looks good, looks physical, looks happy. He was really getting after the workout hard. Had a nice conversation with him. He's excited. Looks like he's refreshed. Looks like he's having fun with his teammates also. He interacted with his teammates and they were getting after him pretty good. Pushed him, and he was pushing them as well as far as how they were going out after their workout for the day.

 

            Q. So are other players working out with him?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Yes.

 

            Q. What kind of reaction have you received from people in Houston taking over the Rangers job?

            JEFF BANISTER: Well, you know what? There is a large group of people who are extremely happy and proud, and then there were a few that were a little sad that it wasn't Houston. But we don't really ‑‑ there are only about 280 miles between my current house and where my new house is going to be. So all those friends down in Houston, 280 miles in the state of Texas is like going next door, so we'll be all right.

 

            Q. Going back to Darvish, do you know when he's going to start pitching?

            JEFF BANISTER:  When he's going to start his throwing program?

 

            Q. Yeah.

            JEFF BANISTER:  No, not at this point. I let him and Mike Maddux take care of that. I'd like to be there and see if, if I could. But he'll be on a throwing program. He and Coach Maddux will take care of that.

 

            Q. What kind of impression did you have of Darvish when you saw him on the mound when he was pitching?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, one of the better pitchers in all of baseball. Dynamic stuff, likes to compete, likes to get after hitters, come after hitters. Again, he made hitters come back dragging that bat back, talking to themselves. So you know his stuff is pretty good. But, again, he's one of the better pitchers in all of baseball.

 

            Q. You were, I believe, a fairly big proponent of throwing inside. Have you had any of those conversations with your pitchers already?

            JEFF BANISTER:  You made me dribble on myself. We've had a lot of conversations that I would expect that pitching inside is part of the game. You've got to throw on both sides of the plate. So there are times that you can't allow hitters to get their arms extended. Hitters know that. So, yeah, I would think that we'd like to throw inside when we can.

 

            Q. (Indiscernible)?

            JEFF BANISTER:  I watched Choo workout also. I've had a number of conversations with Choo. He's right on target. Looks good, looks healthy, body looks strong. He's one of the players that's been working out pretty regularly at the stadium. So looks like he's in pretty good shape.

 

            Q. Do you expect him next year to be back to when he was hitting?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Yeah, I'd like to see him be that type of player. That's the type of player that he wants to be also. He was not satisfied with what last year was for him. We've had that conversation. We had a conversation about his style of play, what I saw from him being with the Pirates when he was with the Reds. So one of my wishes for him is to go back to being that type of player, that aggressive player on the basepaths. A guy that can draw a walk, but also hit the ball in the gap and be an on‑base machine.

 

            Q. You worked with a lot of different skippers in Pittsburgh. How did some of those guys or some of those different guys rub off on you? What do you take from some of those guys?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, Jim Leyland was just the fire, the passion, the determination. Gene Lamont was a little more cerebral, patient. Chuck Tanner was everybody's manager. I mean, everybody loved Chuck, and he knew everybody's name. His players loved him. He could ‑‑ he had a way of patting him on the back and kick him in the rear at the same time. He found a way to get the best out of all of the guys that he had.

            Clint Hurdle, probably the best that I've been around. He's the best fisherman of men that I've ever been around. I'm sure some of you here get a lot of the daily quotes and things that he sends out. He never has bad words really for anybody. He finds a way to really make everybody's day a little bit better. But with the players, it's always trying to find the best words, the best actions that are going to allow those men to go out and perform every day. If they need an arm around their neck or a hand on their shoulder, or they need a kick in the behind. If they need words of praise or if they need some critical truth, he found a way to do it every single day.

            It wasn't just his group. It was individually. Not only the players, but also with the coaches. I mean, for me, he was. For four years I got to stand next to a guy that really, truly wanted to invest in other human beings and make their lives better.

 

            Q. Are you on the mailing list?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Oh, I get probably about four a day, maybe five on a good day.

 

            Q. He had a really good one the other day about the dog going to heaven, the guy taking his dog to heaven. I liked that one.

            JEFF BANISTER:  He's got a lot of them. And they're not always all flowery either. Some of them will cut you pretty good too if you read deep.

 

            Q. To clear up a couple points, you were diagnosed on your 15th birthday which is in January, correct?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Yes. My birthday is in January, January 15th, yes. I actually went into the hospital on my birthday. The diagnosis actually came later. Osteomyelitis was diagnosed ‑‑ which if you look up osteomyelitis, it's a bone infection which was actually eating the bone from the inside out. The infection that I had that ‑‑ you know, if you read, and I've done a little research on osteomyelitis, it's a pretty aggressive bone disease that can eat you up pretty good, pretty fast. That's what the original diagnosis was.

            It wasn't until later in the summer that after I had gotten out of the hospital the first time and gone back in the second time that as they continued to do more operations when they actually found two cysts.

 

            Q. So you were playing football in September?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Actually, well, you could call it that. I was standing on the sidelines.

 

            Q. But you were practicing?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Well, yeah. I mean, yeah. I can't recall even actually touching the field very much to be honest with you that next year.

 

            Q. But then the following baseball season you were?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Yeah, in January.

 

            Q. Of your 16th birthday?

            JEFF BANISTER:  No, no, no, 17th. 17th.

 

            Q. So it took you two years?

            JEFF BANISTER:  No, no. Knee surgery, ankle surgeries, because I only played the one year of high school baseball which was my senior year.

 

            Q. Do you still get check‑ups more regularly?

            JEFF BANISTER:  No, no, just the same check‑ups that we get on a yearly basis with the baseball team.

            Now, I do have a doctor back in the Houston area that I go to that is a general practitioner that I make sure I get a complete physical to make sure that, look, I'll be 51 years old. I had a dad that died at 48 of a heart attack.

            So there are other things we look at now other than just the normal routine checkup.

 

            Q. Especially now that you're 50?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Yes.

 

            Q. You were so young when you got diagnosed. Is your diet, are you a health nut?

            JEFF BANISTER:  Early on, no, I wasn't a health nut. More educated now. I do try to exercise as regularly as I can. This job does give you an opportunity to get out and do some exercise. We've gotten a lot smarter. The choice of food in the clubhouse is a lot different in most clubhouses now.

            When I am at home, I do try to keep a watch on what I do eat, but I'm not ‑‑ I don't go overboard with it at all, no.