Rangers add Ecker, Bonifay to staff

November 1st, 2021

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers made their first notable offseason additions on Monday with the hire of Donnie Ecker as their bench coach and offensive coordinator and Josh Bonifay as the club’s farm director.

Texas’ staff underwent a shuffling at the conclusion of the 2021 season, when Ross Fenstermaker was promoted to assistant general manager and Mike Daly was reassigned to a yet-to-be-determined role, leaving the director of player development job open for Bonifay to slide into.

Ecker, who has spent the past two seasons as the Giants' hitting coach, will have oversight of the Rangers' overall hitting program at both the Major and Minor League levels. The club will still focus on hiring additional hitting coaches after parting ways with Luis Ortiz and his staff at the end of the 2021 season.

Ecker was part of a San Francisco staff that turned around the team’s offense, going from a .239/.302/.392 slash line in 2019 to .249/.329/.440 in 2021, when the club won the National League West. The Giants’ 241 home runs in '21 were not only a franchise record, but also ranked first in the NL and second in MLB, trailing only the Blue Jays (262).

Part of that development was Ecker fully changing the way the Giants took batting practice before games, almost exclusively using machines instead of coaches throwing to players. He explained that he felt like that best prepared the players to impact the game every day.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward made it clear that despite Ecker’s position as offensive coordinator, the eventual hitting coach will still have a large role with the club in 2022. Ecker’s job as bench coach will allow for expanded duties for Tony Beasley, Corey Ragsdale and Bobby Wilson.

“[Ecker and the hitting coach] are obviously going to work side by side,” Woodward said. “He's going to have a huge take on who we hire as a coach. It has to be somebody that he trusts, that he understands and that speaks the same language. We’re going to put our heads together. It's exciting because I feel like we can kind of take the next step in this game right now.”

Ecker added that going from one of MLB’s oldest rosters in the Giants to one of the youngest and most inexperienced in the Rangers will be a challenge that he's excited to take on.

At 35 years old, Ecker was younger or around the same age as many of the Giants’ players. That won't be the case in Texas.

“When you step into any situation, there's a specific strategy that I'm going to think about,” Ecker said. “Two principles that I'm always going to live by: One is to honor the player and honor their past. In this case, a lot of these guys just have a shorter past.

“Secondly, I think there's a really big advantage to not having deep-rooted thoughts and mechanisms with younger players, where there's a little bit more of a blank slate where we can start to groove that foundation. The focus is all on the opportunity to help these guys create as much value as possible in their lives.”

Bonifay was part of the Rangers' big league coaching staff from 2016-17 under then-manager Jeff Banister. He’s been the Phillies’ farm director since October 2018, but he was reassigned to take a position as a pro scout following the ‘21 season.

The plan is for Bonifay and Fenstermaker to work in unison, with Fenstermaker as more of the brains behind the operation and Bonifay implementing the systems at all levels of the organization.

“The way we envision this is that Ross is, obviously, in the front office, helping devise systems and processes,” said general manager Chris Young. “Josh is on the field, in the trenches with our staff and players, implementing those and having a daily connection to both. Certainly, Josh will be involved in all aspects of our decision making, in terms of player development and in how we go about these processes that we want to continue to implement and enhance.”

Bonifay will inherit a Rangers farm system that is ranked No. 11 in the Majors, according to MLB Pipeline, following an active Trade Deadline and the selection of Jack Leiter as the second overall pick in in the 2021 Draft.

Fenstermaker said he’s confident that Bonifay will continue to help the Rangers’ system climb through the ranks and reach the next level.

"I think with where we're at -- we saw a pretty significant climb [in system rankings] from the mid 20s to a borderline top-10 system -- just continuing to build upon that and enhance that and take that to a higher tier,” Fenstermaker said. “I think we've got great players and great systems in place here, and [I'm] really looking to build upon that and take us higher and ultimately produce high-quality Major Leaguers that are going to win championships here in Texas.”