Texas Rangers

Most Interesting Man in Rangers camp? It may be a former banker, Mariano Rivera’s buddy

One of the final additions to first-time manager Chris Woodward’s Texas Rangers staff has never coached in the major leagues, nor did he ever play in the majors.

He did, however, play and train with Mariano Rivera, the first unanimous choice to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The natives of Panama are good friends.

At one point, he left a budding career as a minor-league coach, though no one can fault him for wanting to be near his wife and newborn daughter.

He went back to school, business administration and finance. He really liked math. He thought about a career in finance, but before a bank in Florida would hire him, he sold blinds.

To recap, minor-league pitcher, Mariano Rivera’s friend, minor-league coach, family man, likes math, blinds salesman, banker, coach again.

Julio Rangel, the Rangers’ new pitching coach, might be the Most Interesting Man in Rangers camp this spring. He’s also a man with a plan for his pitchers.

“One of the things that I’m preaching to all of these guys on the staff is it’s going to be prepared,” Rangel said. “It’s going to be a staff that’s going to be very aggressive in the zone and attack and challenge hitters, and use the information that we have available to come up with the best plans and be prepared for every outing.”

But enough of the baseball. Banking?

Rangel had coached at High A in the New York Yankees’ system after he finished his nine-year playing career. He married, and he and his wife were preparing for the birth of their first child when the Yankees wanted him to coach in the Dominican Republic.

He was pulled home to be with his young family, and he needed to support them. So, he want back college, earned a degree and waited for a bank to hire him. During the bank, he sold window blinds.

He bounced around three banks around Tampa, Fla., but it was evident he needed baseball again.

“I did it for four years, but it was one of those things I knew my heart wasn’t in it,” Rangel said. “I remember the manager of the bank used to always say, ‘Why can’t you sit at your desk? Why are you always walking around?’ I’d say, ‘I played for nine years and I’m used to being out on the field. It’s hard for me to sit.’

The Cleveland Indians came calling with an opportunity to coach in the minors, which meant being away from home for long stretches. Rangel was torn.

“My wife knew,” he said. “She was like, ‘You need to go and try because I know you miss it.’”

That was 2007. This is 2019, and Rangel comes to the Rangers after a year as the San Francisco Giants’ minor-league pitching coordinator. He was hired in November and has been busy trying to learn Rangers pitchers, traveling to and fro to check in on them.

Along the way, his buddy and countryman was elected to the Hall of Fame.

So, how close is Rangel to Rivera?

“I know Mariano really well,” Rangel said. “I played in the minor leagues with the Yankees, and when I got there in ’94, Mariano, I think he was three years ahead of me, was there. The guy that signed all us at that time, we all used to train together in Panama.

“When we see each other, it’s normal. We don’t call each other all the time, but when I see him in Panama, it’s normal. He’s a good guy.”

Rangel, 43, said that Rivera hasn’t had any influence on how he coaches, nor has Rivera told Rangel the secret to the cut fastball. That might make his transition to big-league coaching go much smoother, but Rangel isn’t concerned about the minors-to-majors coaching jump.

“It’s coaching, no matter where you’re at,” he said. “When you get to the big leagues, everything gets magnified, people pay more attention, there’s TV and all that stuff, but coaching is coaching.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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