From the sports editor: Keister’s heart still in baseball

Tripp Keister knows that pro baseball is a business, of course.

It’s just never felt that way to him.

So you can talk about how many seasons and victories that the Delaware native has piled up in his eight seasons managing in the Washington Nationals minor league system.

But Keister likes to think about it in terms of the number of players he’s met, too.

Tripp Keister

“It’s very personal,” said Keister, who was in Wilmington this week for a series with the Blue Rocks. “You get to know the players. You get to see them get married and get to the big leagues and they start their families.

“You get to start a relationship with them and then you see them — and really you’re talking about their dream coming true — and they get to the major leagues and become a major league player. It’s that process and that personal relationship, it’s nice.”

While the numbers may not be that big a deal to the 48-year-old Keister, they’re still impressive.

In his sixth season as manager of the Class A Potomac Nationals, he started the season with 353 wins — 40 more than any other manager in franchise history. He owns 389 victories now.

And with 772 games under his belt, the former Delaware State and Wesley head coach has managed more games than other previous Potomac manager.

What Keister is really excited about is that two of his former players — Washington’s Anthony Rendon and the Chicago White Sox’ Lucas Giolito — selected for Tuesday’s Major League All-Star Game. That’s a first for him.

Potomac Nats’ manager Tripp Keister with his daughter, Maddie, a Smyrna High grad. Submitted photo

“The process is different for each guy,” said Keister. “Some guys fly through the system and some guys take a little longer but then they figure it out.“

Keister knows his job is to not only develop a player’s skills but teach them how to win at the next level. Ultimately, the Nationals’ success at the Major League level is shared by the entire organization.

It’s all part of the process.

“A lot of those players have been through here and you know them personally,” said Keister. “I know the (major league) coaching staff. Winning a National League pennant and getting to the World Series is obviously something that’s a goal for all of us. It’s something that’s very prominent in our thinking.”

Still, when he can, Keister tries to make the team as much about being a family as he can. He knows a lot of the players’ parents. Every June, he tries to make a big deal out of Father’s Day for the players on the team who have kids.

“We’re together, we’re not with our families,” said Keister.

Of course, being a baseball manager also means Keister has had to miss a lot of things in the lives of his own kids.

While Keister got to his see his son, Kevin, play a lot of basketball for Caravel Academy, he saw almost none of his baseball games. The younger Keister is going to continue his career at the University of Maryland.

Being away also meant that Keister wasn’t around when Wesley football coach Mike Drass died suddenly in May, 2018.

Keister did happen to call Drass about a week before he passed away, though. Keister was on a long drive when he dialed him.

“I talked to him for probably an hour,” said Keister. “We had a great conversation. I loved talking with him.

“And I don’t know why — I don’t what came over me to call him. It just popped into my head. As I’ve gotten older, one of the things I recognize is that, if someone pops into your head, you should call them. There’s a reason why they popped into your head. … You just never know.”

What Keister does know that is that, after all these games and all these seasons, he still loves coaching baseball.

He hopes he always does.

“I don’t really look at it as six years here and eight years with the Nationals,” said Keister. “I show up every day and I enjoy the game still. I just kind of take each day as it comes and enjoy it. Here I am still coaching.”

Odds & ends

• Delaware basketball standout Ithiel Horton will reportedly announce his new college destination on Wednesday. According to those reports, he’s narrowed his decision down to either Pittsburgh or Arkansas.

The freshman guard unexpectedly put his name in the NCAA transfer portal last week after averaging 13.2 ppg in his one season with the Blue Hens. Whichever school Horton chooses, he’ll have to sit out next season before having three years of eligibility remaining.

• Dover High basketball All-Stater Eden Davis, who will be a senior this school year, has offers from Division I Canisius and Robert Morris.

• Caravel football player Ethan Potter verbally committed to Villanova this week.

• Harrington’s new Delaware Thunder pro hockey team is holding a press conference on Monday to make a “big announcement.”

• The 41st annual Great Wyoming Buffalo Stampede will be held on July 13 at 8 a.m. at Wyoming Park. Runners can choose from a 5K run/walk or a 10K run.

The race will also feature newly redesigned handcrafted wooden buffalo awards, which will go to 1st, 2nd and 3rd-place male and female runners in 5-year age groups starting at age 9 and under through age 80 and over. There will also be 5K walk awards for the top five male and female finishers. Register on-line at TriSportsEvents.com or by mail; mail-in registration forms can be found at www.ddsr.org/buffalo-stampede/. The registration fee is $25 through July 6 and increases to $30 after that.

The 41st annual Buffalo Stampede will have new trophies this year. Submitted photo

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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