First Pitch Q&A: Fox, Bankhead

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina was able to catch up with North Carolina head coach Mike Fox and keynote speaker Scott Bankhead after the Diamond Heels' 2011 First Pitch Dinner on Saturday night.

Bankhead, an 11-year veteran of the Major Leagues, set many of the school's pitching records while at UNC (1982-84) and was a first round pick in the 1984 MLB Draft.


Can you give an introduction to what kind of pitcher Scott Bankhead was during his career at North Carolina?

"I don't think people realize until you start to listen to things like 20 consecutive wins in a row - that record might never be broken - and I think that Scott was one of the first great pitchers in the history of this program over a sustained period of time … The best story about it is how relatively unknown he was coming out of high school. I think that is the biggest story that he gave to the players tonight is that the rankings and all that don't really matter that much but that it is what you do after that when you have the opportunity. Obviously he made the most of his opportunity here and the rest is history."

What went into the decision to invite Scott to be the keynote speaker for the third annual First Pitch Dinner?

"We are trying to keep this to be a UNC family event and we want Carolina people here and we want the best that North Carolina has to offer and want to start within our program. In hindsight Scott should have probably been the first [speaker] in actuality. North Carolina players who have gone on and been successful here and gone on to be successful in the major leagues or maybe not but gone on to be successful in life and continued to give back to Carolina and support the program - those are the people I think who can send the most powerful message when they come and speak to this kind of group."


What was it like for you to come back to Chapel Hill and be the keynote speaker for the First Pitch event?

"Certainly it was an honor, number one, to be asked. Number two, it is always a thrill when I can have anything to do with this baseball program or this University as a whole. It did so much for me and provided me with so many opportunities. I follow these guys and it is my pleasure to be here and I was very, very impressed with the support that this baseball program has started to garner throughout this state - very impressed."

You have a unique perspective on the Tar Heel baseball program - from playing in it, to playing in the major leagues and now running the NC Baseball Academy in Greensboro to help guide young student-athletes on their future path in the sport…

"I can only compare and contrast from the outside because I was not involved [in recruiting]. I can in a time when there were not rankings or publications or the TV exposure or was not the agents or the advisors that are involved in it now. But I will say that baseball - college baseball in general - is thriving. You know that kids want to come to college and kids are wanting to get into these types of programs. Kids are wanting to be coached by coaches that we have here in Coach Fox, Forbes and Jackson. That type of environment allows them to grow as baseball players but also being in that environment, academic and social setting helps them grow as young men. That is why I think that the University of North Carolina offers the best package that there is in the country."

With the North Carolina Baseball Academy, what kind of services and teams you offer?

"The North Carolina Baseball Academy was a vision of mine that started shortly after my career [in the Major Leagues] was over. After doing some high school coaching and being around high school kids I liked the interaction and liked teaching and coaching and I explored for a couple of years an opportunity to do it as a business but we have tried to be a resource for kids of all ages and ability levels and we try to help them dream and realize their dreams in a very positive way. Also off the field we hope to have an influence on them to make sure they understand the importance of their school work and the opportunities that those academics will open up for them. Thirteen years doing it right now and there are several kids out here tonight in the audience that have come through our program and I am very fortunate to have touched their lives in a very small way and they are the ones that went out and did it and they are here now and I am very proud to say that I had a small something to do about that."

Can you look back on your career as a student-athlete at the University of North Carolina?

"Coming to the University of North Carolina was by far the greatest opportunity that I ever had in my life. An unheralded and unrecruited type of kid out of a small town that came here and had the opportunity to play at a University like this and a baseball program. My memories - I could have talked for hours up here tonight - but the former teammates that I still keep in touch with and the former coaches that I still have contact with. The contacts that I constantly make at this University because I was such a small part in the broad history of this baseball program. It is a special place and this tonight blew me away with the support that this baseball program is getting right now."

Another special opportunity and achievement of yours was the 1984 Olympics. What was that experience like, which you shared with fellow Tar Heel B.J. Surhoff ?

"B.J. and I have been very close friends ever since we played here. That experience was unbelievable in itself but to have a teammate there with you - somebody that you played with for two years in college and somebody you respected and admired that is there sharing that experience - not very many people get to have a teammate on an Olympic team or even have an opportunity to be on an Olympic team. I was very blessed to have that opportunity."

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