Bannister returns to KeySpan Park

Mets starting pitcher Brian Bannister returned to his old stomping grounds Wednesday as his Brooklyn Cyclones uniform number was retired, along with the unveiling of his very own bobblehead statue.

The Mets drafted the 25-year-old Bannister, the son of ex-big leaguer pitcher Floyd Bannister, out of USC in 2003 in the seventh round of the amateur draft. The ex-Trojan made his debut with the Cyclones that year, going 4-1 with 2.15, best on the Brooklyn staff that year and earning selection to the New York-Penn League All-Star game.

Bannister was excited to reacquaint himself with Coney Island one more time.

"The same fans are still here, the ones that cheered for me in 2003," said the well-spoken Scottsdale, Ariz. native. "They continue to cheer on the guys in the organization. There's not a better place to play in your first year of baseball than here. It is such a great foundation for making it to the big leagues.

"Playing in front of 8,000 people right away, on TV, it's something a lot of guys never experience and playing in New York is difficult and a great experience."

Bannister said that his most memorable moment with the Cyclones was – not surprisingly – against the Staten Island Yankees.

"The most infamous memory was Staten Island, we had beat them nine straight times," he chuckled. "I still remember the brawl with Staten Island."

Bannister made his debut for the Mets this year on April 5 and is 2-1 on the year in six starts with a 3.44 ERA. He was off to a strong start before being sidelined in April with a hamstring injury that kept him on the shelf until recently.

"It was a mental challenge," he said. "With an arm injury, Tommy John (surgery), you know you're going to be out for the year. We didn't know exactly what happened at first and there were complications to it, but I made it past. My arm is still healthy as I ever was."

The former Trojan said he was thrilled at the thought of being in the post-season and dropped the notion of a potential Subway Series.

"To have a chance to go to the postseason, especially in New York, the excitement doesn't get any better and with the opportunity to maybe play the Yankees, I can't think of a better first year in the major leagues," he said.

Bannister revealed that for the rest of the regular season he‘d work out of the bullpen throughout the stretch drive towards the playoffs.

It may not be the last time, however, for Bannister to toe the rubber as a starter, especially with the current state of the Mets rotation.

"I think I can really contribute to the team out of the bullpen," he said. "But if a spot start comes along, I'll definitely be ready for it."

Bannister said that the experience with Brooklyn helped him get to the majors and said he was living his dream out as a big league pitcher on a possible World Series winner.

"To be a part of a team this special, it has the caliber of the '86 team, the chemistry, that kind of excitement and potential, as a rookie is a rare opportunity," he said. "There's a lot of guys who wait their whole careers to be on a team like this and to be on it is exciting."

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