Being part of Nats’ title was special for Keister

Tripp Keister is in his ninth season as the manager of the Potomac Nationals, who are moving to Frederick, Md. this year. (Photo courtesy Tripp Keister)

Tripp Keister wasn’t going to ride in the parade.

Not, at first anyway.

He thought that moment should be left for the Washington Nationals’ players and coaches — the people directly involved with the franchise’s first World Series title last November.

In the end, though, there was Keister, riding atop a double-decker bus through streets lined with Nats’ fans in the nation’s capital.

“I’m really glad I did it,” he said. “It was an incredible experience when we made that turn down Constitution Avenue. It was just a sea of red.

“It was a lot of fun. I got to be with a lot of people I work with. It was very meaningful.”

Tripp Keister’s view while riding in the Nationals’ championship parade in Washington, D.C. last fall. (Photo courtesy Tripp Keister)

After spending a lifetime in baseball, the 49-year-old Delaware native certainly earned the right to take that bus ride.

The former Delaware State and Wesley College head coach, Keister was also a scout with the Padres before spending the last eight seasons as the manager of the Class A Potomac Nationals.

Keister estimates there were close to a dozen players on last year’s 25-man championship roster that spent time with him in Potomac — either coming up through the minors or on rehab assignments.

With 423 career victories he has 110 more than any other manager in franchise history. He’s also the team’s first manager to serve for more than six consecutive seasons.

“What happens is you become emotionally invested,” Keister said about knowing some of the players. “When you work somewhere, you become invested in the group. The group of people. … you get to know them. You really pull for them. You know their families and how hard they work.

Tripp Keister poses with Washington’s National League championship trophy. (Photo courtesy Tripp Keister)

“You like seeing good things happen to people that are character guys who work hard. To be a part of that was definitely something special.”

The former Delaware outfielder said in moments like that you also remember your roots.

Keister is a McKean High grad who spent four seasons in the New York Mets’ minor-league system after finishing his career at UD. He also was an assistant coach at South Carolina.

“I tell you, to look at where I’ve come from,” he said. “Every guy they’d send me, I’d just try to get better. And here we are on a bus turning down Constitution Avenue in a parade. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, how did this happen?’

“It’s funny the amount of people within the industry that were really pulling for us,” Keister added. “I can’t tell you how many people throughout baseball, that I played against or I coached against, contacted us to say congratulations and they were really rooting for us. That was interesting. You don’t really realize it until it’s over.”

Keister is hoping that this season — whenever it starts — can be a special one, too. His club has moved to Frederick, Maryland, where a brand-new stadium is under construction.

Like much of the pro baseball world, Keister was at spring training in Florida when word of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown hit in mid-March. Since then, he has been back home in Bear just waiting for things to start up again.

His son Kevin, who is heading to Maryland to play baseball in the fall, is a senior at Caravel.

“It was actually going to be a fun time to be involved in baseball in D.C.,” said Keister. “There’s a lot of excitement. I’m kind of hoping, at some point, we get a chance to get to that. … I hope we play baseball this year, I really do.

“People always ask me, what’s going to happen with baseball? I always tell them, ‘I know what you know. When I read Twitter or I read the internet, I’m getting the same information you’re getting.’ ”

In the meantime, Keister said the Nationals, as an organization, are doing their best to stay connected with their players. They send out a baseball topic every day for them to think about.

For now, last year’s World Series celebration will have to remain Kesiter’s last big baseball memory for a while.

What he took away from the championship parade was simply how happy all the fans were.

“I think what happens is, you want to share it with the people that care,” said Keister. “That’s what is so exciting. The fans cared.

“Obviously, the way that we went about it … we really didn’t have a good start last year and the way that the ballclub came together, was kind of special. The fans really got behind us. The parade was an out-pouring of emotion that was pretty fun.”