WASHINGTON – Tripp Keister was in Florida when the Nationals and the rest of Major League Baseball shut down Spring Training facilities.
“Hey, it is going to be a couple of weeks, then we will get back to work,” Keister said Tuesday, referring to his thoughts, and others, in March. “Here we are seven months later.”
Kiester said players only have so many years to play. But for coaches, “... we are still missing the game we love, being around the players, being around the game,” he said. “That is what we love to do.”
After several months away from the game, Keister, 50, is slated to fly to Florida on Monday to join the Nationals’ Instructional League program.
Now in his 10th year in player development with Washington, the former University of Delaware standout was slated to be the manager of the Single-A team in the Carolina League this season.
Instead, he was at his home in Delaware and spent more time than usual with his children.
That includes his son, Kevin, a freshman at the University of Maryland a member of the baseball program.
The elder Keister also dealt with COVID-19 in July.
“I am fine now,” said Keister, who played in the minors with the Mets.
Besides watching some of his son’s summer league games, he took one of his daughters to see the new stadium in Fredericksburg – used this summer as the alternate site for the 60-player pool.
“They showed us around and then we drove back” to Delaware, he said.
Keister also watched a lot of baseball on television, including the Nationals, Orioles and Phillies, and could also follow the internal video feed of the intrasquad games from the alternate site in Fredericksburg.
One of the pitchers there, Seth Romero, pitched at Hagerstown in 2019 and could have been one of his pitchers at Single-A Fredericksburg in 2020.
Instead, the lefty made three appearances for the Nationals and is now in Florida on MLB rehab after injuring his right hand during the MLB season.
Keister, part of the Instructional League in the past, figures he will work with outfielders and baserunners when he gets to West Palm Beach.
That is also the domain of player development coordinator Gary Thurman, who played in the majors from 1987-97 and will not be on hand for the entire month.
A former coach at Delaware State, Keister looks forward to connecting with several coaches. That includes Justin Lord, who was to be the Fredericksburg pitching coach in 2020.
“It is great I get a chance to meet and be around some of the players that were drafted” in 2020, Keister said.
One of those players, first-round pick Cade Cavalli, was the starting pitcher on Tuesday and went three innings as the Nationals beat the visiting Marlins 4-3 in the first Instructional League contest.
Keister looks forward to seeing players he would have had in the Carolina League in 2020.
But first things first.
“I have to get a (COVID) test when I get there and quarantine,” Keister said.