Tripp Keister: Player Development in Professional Sports

Tripp Keister is the winningest manager in Potomac Nationals history, but he doesn't care about that, what he cares about is player development.

Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp, Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

Since the day we started this podcast I have had fans ask repeatedly – please get someone in player development.

This has been one of my big failures to date – I’ve struck out a ton. I’ve likely requested interviews with 30 different people in player development, which resulted in 29 very polite no thank you’s.

Dior Ginyard, Senior Player Manager for the NFLPA was my one success, and if you ask me one of our best interviews to date, primarily because player development is a very interesting subject. Helping elite athletes develop as people, serving them so they can be the best version of themselves on campus, or in the minors, or in the big time.player development in sports

As you likely have noticed I’m a little obsessed with the development side of people in general. That path from student to professional is fascinating to me – the steps people take to find their true calling, and to master their art form. The influencers who have guided them, the tough love that drove them, the micro decisions that have resulted in massive change.

All of this fascinates me, which is why I, like you, wanted to have more guests in player development.

This weeks guest, Tripp Keister, is the single A manager of the Potomac Nationals. He’s the winningest manager in Potomac Nationals history…but you know what it says on his LinkedIn account: that he works in player development.

Not that he’s a master of double switches and pitch counts, but that he’s in the development of the young men that come through his dugout.

And they all do.

As the manager of the Washington National High A team, most of not all their top draft picks and prospects start with Tripp.

This again fascinates me.

Think about this for a second, Tripp is managing a bunch of 18 year olds embarking on their future, not just on the field but often in their first times away from home, their first time having to manage their own lives!

This makes me wonder – how is that any different than Mike Judge managing the inside sales staff of the Cleveland Browns?

Is it the same? Is management, management? Is motivation and technique and evaluation and discipline the same whether you are developing high powered athletes or entry level employees?

I found my conversation with Tripp fascinating, and his overall approach to developing young men into really good, productive people. Success is different for everyone, some will reach the majors, some won’t, but I think they’ll all look back and remember the influence of Tripp Keister.

Let’s get into it – here’s Tripp Keister


Questions for Tripp Keister, Potomac Nationals Manager and Player Development


1: Before we get into your role in player development and managing in the Nationals farm system – let’s talk a little about you and your backgroundyou played college ball at the University of Delaware, you were a standout player, but I’m curious the mindset of a college athlete – while in school were you focused on being a player in the majors, or did you start to consider your post-playing days career?

2: You get drafted by the Mets in the 1992 amateur draft – the vast majority of us will never know that feeling – what was that like being chosen to continue your career as a pro?

3: You played in the 341 games in the minors – what kind of life lessons did you pull from this experience?

4: I have to imagine the moment you realize you aren’t going to go any further in your playing career is tough mentally – how did you deal with this change and pivot to a new focus and career?

5: You jumped into coaching at University of South Carolina after your final season with the Binghampton Mets – and then became an amateur scout with the Padres. We have many people in our audience who dream about becoming a scout – so tell us, what is the life of a scout really like?

6: Even as a scout – did you always have the bug for coaching?

7: For the last 8 seasons you’ve been in the Nationals organization on the player development and managerial side. You manage the High - A Potomac Nationals which means the top players in the organization come through you at a very young age – what is your approach to turning these youngsters into performers on the field and also leaders as men?

8: How much does your background as a player and scout help you guide these young men to be their best?

9: I remember hearing a quote from former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson – he would say that if a player fell asleep in a meeting he’d cut then right there on the spot… unless it was Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith, then he’d get them a pillow – in your world, how much do special players get special treatment?

10: How do you weigh winning games against developing the players in the fundamentals of the game and in the proper way for the Nationals organization?

11: In your view, do you have to be a former player to be a great manager or someone who can thrive in player development?

12: I get this question a lot so now I’m going to throw it back at you… if you could go back and talk to the 21 year old version of yourself…what would you tell them to do differently?

Listen in to the Work in Sports podcast to hear the answer to all of these great questions on player development in sports. 

By Brian Clapp | February 06, 2019
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