In 1988, Jeff suffered personal losses when his Dad died of a heart attack
Once the baseball season began, Jeff received word that Dr. Lockhardt, his family doctor who helped save his life twice (see below) suffered a heart attack while driving his car. He was killed when his car collided with a truck.
"I never ask why this all happened to me," Jeff said. "If I did, I wouldn't get an answer anyway. I don't even know if I want the answer. I just thank God for all the chances I've been given."
In November 2010, Banister was one of two finalists for the Pirates' manager's job, but lost out to Texas hitting coach Clint Hurdle. Nevertheless, Banister agreed to join Hurdle's staff as the bench coach.When we had our first interview in Pittsburgh, I told Clint I wanted the opportunity to earn his trust," Banister said. "We're both big on trust. It's not just, 'Do I trust you?' It's trust to do everything we want to do in this organization."
Banister, 47, has spent his entire 25-year career with the Pirates as a player and coach. He was manager at Class A Welland (1994), Augusta (1995), and Lynchburg (1996-97); and Double-A Carolina (1997-98).
In 2010, Banister was promoted from minor league field coordinator to Major League bench coach after Gary Varsho was fired.
"Field coordinators don't get enough credit," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "Jeff developed managers. He might not have been calling the signs, but he was actually ahead of the manager to ensure we were doing the right things in managing that game."
Banister first met Hurdle in 1995, when Hurdle was hitting coordinator for the Colorado Rockies.
"Baseball's such a small industry, really," Banister said. "There's only 30 clubs. You see most everybody really at some point in your career, and you have conversation."
Even after the Pirates passed him over as their manager, Banister emphasized he wanted to remain with the club and work with Hurdle.
"What better guy to learn from?" Banister said. "He's been a first-round pick. He's coached, managed and played in the World Series. It's where I'd love to go and I'd love to be part of this organization when it happens." (Rob Biertempfel-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review-3/6/11)
Banister switched uniform numbers it in memory of a fallen friend.
Jeff changed from No. 55 to 17 to honor the late Ron Carelock, a childhood friend and former teammate at LaMarque High School in Texas. Carelock died in a car accident Oct. 17, 1981—a cruel twist of fate for an athlete who wore No. 10 in basketball, 17 in baseball, and 81 in football.
"The school actually retired his number (17), so I asked his parents if they minded if I wore No
"The school actually retired his number (17), so I asked his parents if they minded if I wore No. 17 for my senior year," Banister said. "They said it was fine because our relationship went back to our childhood days."
As a player at Baytown Junior College in Texas, Banister broke his neck in a collision at home plate. A vertebrae was crushed, leaving him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.
Banister was wearing No. 17 that day.
When I made my return to the field, I told myself I'd never wear that number again," Banister said. "I thought about the whole significance of him wearing it and it was the number I was wearing, and the things that had happened."
In 1991, Banister wore No
In 1991, Banister wore No. 28 when he made his Major League debut. However, 28 wasn't available when he spent four seasons as the Pirates' field coordinator from 1999-2002. It belonged to outfielders Al Martin and John Vander Wal.
Lefthander Paul Maholm now wears 28. Banister contemplated wearing No. 17 again when hired as bench coach by manager Clint Hurdle, but infielder Josh Fields had it.
"When we traded Josh (during spring training), I decided to see if it was a possibility," Banister said. "What better way? For me, it is in a way a tribute to Ronnie. Also, it helps me wash away some old memories in my own mind, too." (Kevin Gorman-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review-4/13/11)