Giger: Bonifay, now MLB coach, finally gets his promotion

Commentary

Josh Bonifay was never fully rewarded as a player, but one of the best players in Curve history is finally getting his just due — as a coach.

“It’s very unexpected and just overwhelming,” Bonifay said of his terrific opportunity.

The Texas Rangers hired Bonifay earlier this week for a job on their major league coaching staff. He will serve as major league field coordinator, plus coach outfield and baserunning on manager Jeff Banister’s staff.

What makes this promotion to the big leagues different from all the other former Curve players and coaches who have made it is that Bonifay was grossly overlooked as a player.

I’ve said this for years: Bonifay is the best Double-A player I’ve ever seen who never spent a single day in Triple-A.

That’s right, for those who didn’t realize, Bonifay was never promoted to Triple-A despite putting up a mountain of numbers in Double-A.

Bonifay spent three seasons with the Curve (2003-05) and then one at Corpus Christi in the Astros’ system. In 426 Double-A games, he hit .276 with 74 homers, 284 RBIs and an OPS of about .825. His 55 homers for the Curve are tied with Adam Hyzdu for the franchise record.

I’ve seen hundreds of Curve alums who weren’t anywhere near as good, as productive or as clutch as Bonifay get called up to Triple-A for one reason or another. The fact that he never made it is astonishing.

Getting the job with the Rangers, therefore, marks the first time Bonifay will have ever worked above Double-A as a player or coach.

He spent the past several years as a minor league coach, including with the Pirates, and was a manager in the lower levels of the Astros’ system the past four years.

In September, the Astros promoted him to minor league player development coordinator, which was a big step up in his career.

Then came the huge step with the Rangers.

“I had no idea any of this was going to happen,” Bonifay said. “I was basically speechless, to be honest with you. It was a very proud moment for myself and my family.

“We’ve always wanted the opportunity to go (to the majors), but that wasn’t really my whole goal being in baseball. Baseball has just given our family so much that we just like being a part of the game.”

The move makes sense on so many levels for Bonifay.

Banister worked with the Pirates for nearly 30 years. Bonifay’s father, Cam, served as the Bucs’ general manager from 1993-2001, and Josh said he has known Banister since he was 12 years old.

The Rangers also have a distinct Curve connection. Former manager Tony Beasley is Texas’ third base coach. He was Bonifay’s manager his final two years in Altoona. Also, former Curve pitching coach Brad Holman is the Rangers’ bullpen coach.

“I’m extremely excited, very fortunate, very blessed,” Bonifay said. “I don’t really have words. It’s been phenomenal. I can’t thank the Rangers enough.

Bonifay didn’t just play for the Curve for three seasons. He lived in Altoona during those offseasons and knows as much about the town, its people and the franchise as any player who’s ever worn a Curve uniform.

He always loved his time here. And fans always loved him. There’s still a giant picture of him at Peoples Natural Gas Field at the VIP entrance.

“We are so proud of Josh on everything he has accomplished on and off the field,” Curve GM Derek Martin said. “I remember going on a lot of appearances and youth clinics with Josh. He was always remarkable with the kids and the community. We are in the memory making business, and Josh made some great ones when he was here in Altoona.”

Bonifay is now married, and he and his wife, Tiffany, have two daughters: Cora, 2, and Caroline, 4 months.

“I met a wonderful woman who’s been beside me the whole time, and she’s very excited,” Bonifay said.

“It’s been a phenomenal year.”

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM.

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