WASHINGTON - As a minor leaguer with the Mets in 1995, Tripp Keister was in the visiting clubhouse as he faced powerhouse Double-A Harrisburg in the Montreal farm system.
As a scout for the Padres about seven years later, he sat in the stands at City Island as he watched top prospects in an amateur showcase.
Now Keister – a former player at the University of Delaware – will get to be in the home clubhouse for an extended period as the new manager of the Harrisburg Senators in the Nationals’ farm system.
Keister, 50, was the Single-A manager at Potomac in 2019 and was slated to be at that level last year in Fredericksburg before the season was wiped up by the pandemic.
“I don’t feel my job has changed,” Keister told Federal Baseball from West Palm Beach on Friday night. “I don’t feel like I am going to change how I approach the day and how I approach working with the players and the improvement plan we have for each guy.”
Keister was drafted by New York in the 33rd round in 1992 out of the University of Delaware. He played for Double-A Binghamton in 1995 in his last season as a player.
“I played in that league a long time ago. They were good. I know they were really good. That was the Expos then,” he said of Harrisburg’s Senators.
“The jump for players is what they say … if you can get to Double-A you can go from there (to the majors). That part is exciting.”
“There is just an excitement to getting back to playing baseball with fans,” Keister added.
“No matter what level you are at, let’s get some fans in the stands and try to get back to some normalcy and have baseball be a part of that. I think that is what is exciting for everybody. Hopefully, we will have fans and we will get back to the game that we know.”
He is well aware of City Island, where Harrisburg plays its home games.
“I was scouting then and there were a couple of games there. I was an area scout for the San Diego Padres in this area,” said Keister, a resident of Delaware.
After playing pro ball, he was an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina.
He was later a coach at Delaware State and coached at Wesley in Delaware before joining the Nationals in player development in 2012.
Keister expects to be in Florida with the Major League staff and then stay for the camp for minor leaguers. A preliminary schedule has Double-A baseball starting perhaps in early May.
Even though Keister had COVID-19 last year, he has to go through the same protocol at Spring Training in Florida.
That means no indoor dining, so he is spending a lot of time at his hotel after aiding the Major League staff during workouts. “That is what I do,” he said.