The Nationals announced Monday that their Gulf Coast League affiliate will have a new manager in former collegiate coach Tripp Keister.
Keister brings two decades as a coach at the collegiate level and major league amateur scout to his new position as skipper of the GCL Nationals.
While at Wesley College in Dover, Del., Keister led the Wolverines to a 157-92-1 record since 2006, including the Capital Athletic Conference championship game in 2010. His six years as coach was the best run in school history as the Wolverines made the playoffs each season and finished with a .630 winning percentage.
Keister played minor league baseball for four seasons and had always had the hunger to remain in the game and be close to the game if he couldn’t play professionally. He played collegiately at Dealware and was drafted by the New York Mets in 1992.
He began his coaching career as an assistant with the University of South Carolina. He also was the head coach at Delaware State before scouting in the majors for the Phillies, Padres, Orioles and Pirates.
While working as a scout, he met current Nationals director of player development Doug Harris. Harris was a big influence on Keister’s career and he considers him a mentor for all the knowledge, guidance and expertise he provided in helping him along the way.
“He showed me the ropes,” Keister said. “I followed his career. We have remained friends and I sought his input on players. Sometimes we would be doing something with pitchers and I will call him and ask, ‘What do you guys do?’ “
Keister said starting out as a college coach and then becoming a professional scout gave him a unique perspective on building a franchise from the inside. That experience helped him better prepare for his new position as manager of the GCL Nationals.
“I really enjoyed (scouting),” Keister said. “It got me to look at the game a little differently than always trying to win. It taught me about stockpiling talent and about the way organizations draft players.
“As a player, you don’t realize the importance of (putting a roster together),” Keister said. “You are just trying to get to the major leagues. But when you are working for the organization, you understand the importance of developing your talent and the premium for drafting (good) players. The value of getting them to another team so you can get pieces to the puzzle for your big league club.”
Harris was not the only member of the Nationals that Keister had experience with in the past; he also sought input from a former major leaguer in the system.
“Another former teammate of mine is Brian Daubach, the manager for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns, and I had talked to him (about the Nationals).”
Keister got a chance to tour the Nationals facility in Viera, Fla., and continued to hear good things about the franchise.
While other teams, like the New York Mets, are dropping their GCL teams, the Nationals continue to feature a vibrant Gulf Coast franchise and recognize the importance of having such a team in their system.
“You can’t be from this area and be a baseball person and not recognize what the Nationals are doing with their minor league system. They are on the cusp of doing something really special,” Keister said. “I was really blown away by (their setup). When I got offered a job, obviously, that was exciting for me.”
Keister begins his new chapter in spring training 2012.