By: Colin Dunlap - CBS Pittsburgh

Everyone has a Jeff Banister story.

How can you not?

READ MORE: Mt. Oliver Night Club Shut Down

Speaking in a hyperbolic manner, you probably have referred to many as “the nicest guy in the world.” I know that I have done it to probably hundreds.

But, if you asked me to pare my list down to the true nicest guys in the world, Jeff Banister would be at or near the top.

That’s not hyperbole, magnification or exaggeration.

Jeff Banister isn’t just one of the finest baseball men I’ve met in a clubhouse — he’s one of the finest men I have met, period.

That’s why when the news started to trickle on Thursday that Banister — who turns 50 in January — is set to become the next manager of the Texas Rangers and will leave his post as the bench coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it is met with diverse sentiments from me. I know most everyone who has grown to know Banister here in Pittsburgh probably feels much the same way too, somewhat because of his baseball acumen, but first and foremost because of his true “nicest guy in the world” way of carrying himself.

You see, Banny is one of those guys who you selfishly want around here, but one of those guys who you want to see have the definitive chance to manage his own club. That’s why, today, the congratulations from many outgrapple a sense that Pittsburgh — and especially the Pirates — are losing one of the finest ambassadors they’ve ever known. In 29 seasons with the Pirates, Banister has held virtually every position with the club, from a player to a minor league instructor, field coordinator, minor league manager and last five as bench coach.

The man overcame both bone cancer and a broken neck to continue his playing career.

What a man. What a man’s man.

But that’s not the half of it.

A tough, take-no-guff Texan on the outside, I got a glimpse of both sides of Banister on many occasions and am better for it.

Case in point, there were days the past few summers when long before the gates opened at PNC Park, I’d sit high atop the venue in the press box. It would be 2 p.m. or so, and there would be Banister and his son Jacob — now 12 — out there on that diamond as the elder hit fungos and the younger scooped them up.

One after another, father and son with that grand city backdrop behind them.

What a thrill it must have been for Jacob — who lives year-round at the family home in Houston — to get to Pittsburgh for a little time and be with his dad.

And as they would make their way into the dugout as Jeff Banister needed to ready for big-league batting practice and the night ahead, he’d meet his son, inevitably, with a pat on the shoulder or rump before the two walked down the tunnel as Jeff draped his arm around his son’s shoulder.

What a man. What a man’s man.

There were nights after the Pirates would win or lose when I’d make my way into the clubhouse with the gaggle of reporters, curious as to a play or decision that had happened in the previous innings.

Almost innately, on more than a few occasions, there was Banister and he sensed it from across the room. He’d give me the index-finger, backwards sign for “come here” and I’d be summoned into a corner of the clubhouse with him as he explained, in great detail, a facet of the game or a reason for the decision.

With how secret baseball has become, Banny was always there to make sure you had the ability to do your job to the best of your abilities.

And I’m certain I wasn’t the only media member he treated in such a manner.

READ MORE: Steelers Nominate Cam Heyward For Prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man Of The Year Award

He didn’t have to do this — he wanted to.

What a man. What a man’s man.

Some will remember the early-August day in 2012 when Pirates superstar centerfielder Andrew McCutchen was drilled by a 101 mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds.

You might remember it for various reasons.

Maybe you remember that incident and how McCutchen never rubbed the area that had to be smarting a ton as he made his way to first base.

Maybe you remember how that pitch seemed to send McCutchen into a subsequent offensive slide.

Maybe you remember how then-Reds manager Dusty Baker insisted there was no intent.

Know what I still remember most from that evening? Jeff Banister.

As the Pirates dugout was clearing out — and after McCutchen had thrown an understandable mini-tantrum — Banister stood sturdy and unwavering near the dugout steps as the Reds celebrated their win on the field. Pirates players and staff meandered around, cleaning their things and heading for the clubhouse through the back of the dugout.

But Banister just stood and stared.

And stared.

And stared.

Banister never said anything.

He just stared — stared a hole through the entire Reds team.

It was a way, without any words, of Banister saying, “We aren’t those old Pirates. We won’t be bullied, we won’t be pushed around anymore.”

What a man. What a man’s man.

In the subsequent days, I had more than a few players tell me privately that they noticed the gesture and how much it meant to them because they understood it wasn’t grandstanding on Banister’s part — the emotions that night from him were real, the anger was palpable because he took so much pride in the ‘P’ on his ballcap.

It’s now that Banister takes his baseball life to Arlington, to the Texas Rangers.

No one knows how it will all turn out with the wins and losses, with their place in the standings, but I know this: The Rangers are getting one of the nicest guys in the world who is also one of the truest definitions of a man’s man I have ever come across.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

MORE NEWS: Mark Whipple: Offensive Coordinator Leaving Pitt Panthers

You May Also Be Interested In These Latest News Stories
[display-posts category=”pirates” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”4″]
Like The Fan On Facebook
Follow The Fan On Twitter