Bannister feeling strong

FRISCO - After missing the entire 2007 season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, 24-year-old pitcher John Bannister is back on the mound. The righty was recently promoted to Double-A Frisco, where beat writer Todd Kaufmann was able to catch up with him.

Young John Bannister comes into Thursday's game against the San Antonio Missions as the starter for the Frisco RoughRiders after being called up from Bakersfield just a few days ago. The 24-year-old right-hander, an only child of a 30-year police veteran and restaurant owner, admits that he probably won't get any sleep the night before and will be the most nervous player on the field come 7:05 pm.

I sat down with the right-hander and talked about everything from his family, his fondest little league memories and what he expects from himself with the Frisco RoughRiders.

Todd Kaufmann: Tell me a little about your family.

John Bannister: I'm the only child, my father is a police officer, has been for 30 years and is 2 months from retirement, my mom is a restaurant owner. I knew I wanted to play baseball, but I've thought about going back to school and getting my degree or even being a fire fighter if baseball didn't work out. My dad never pressured me to be a police officer, he was always baseball oriented and he was a huge help. He always got time off and would always help me when I needed it.

Kaufmann: Take me back to your Little League days, what is your fondest memory?

Bannister: It was a lot of fun, it was always traveling. When I was really young, I was always around home back in Tucson, AZ where I'm from. When I got a little bit older, the team started traveling a lot, playing a lot of baseball. I was fortunate to play in Tucson because we had great weather so we got to play baseball year ‘round.

Going to the Championship game, something I'll always remember, to move on to the West Coast final to be able to move on to the Little League World Series. I was fortunate enough to pitch in that game, although we lost it was a great memory.

Kaufmann: Playing that much baseball, did the thought ever cross your mind that you might get burnt out?

Bannister: I split time between soccer and baseball, I really enjoyed playing soccer so it gave me a nice break from baseball. I'm a real outdoors kind of guy, I love being around people so I never really got burnt out.

Kaufmann: Tell me about the day you were signed by the Rangers.

Bannister: I was an undrafted free agent. Dave Borecki, a scout with the Rangers came and saw me throw a couple of games due to him knowing my agent. I talked to him, talked to the Rangers back and forth for a couple of weeks before I sat down with my parents to talk to them about this opportunity. This was my hopes and dreams and I'm going to run with it.

Kaufmann: Do you ever regret not getting the experience of college baseball?

Bannister: I always think about it, everybody I talk to that came out of high school always wonder what might have been. I've thought about it, I want to go back and eventually get my degree, but I have a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm going to run with it.

Kaufmann: Talk about your first start as a professional baseball player.

Bannister: It was in the Arizona League in 2004. I was real jittery, I didn't sleep well the night before because it was my first time wearing a professional uniform and making my first professional start. I calmed my nerves down, after that you come to the realization that this is your job, so you calm down and get after it. I can remember that I went 4 innings and gave up just 1 run with 4 strikeouts.

Kaufmann: I know you had Tommy John surgery last year, how are you feeling now?

Bannister: I feel great, I feel stronger than I ever have when it comes to my body and my arm. I give a lot of credit to the rehab team back in Arizona, they've all done wonders and they bend over backwards for you to get you out. Nothing makes them happier than seeing someone succeed.

Kaufmann: What was your reaction when you got the call up to Frisco and who called you?

Bannister: Damon Berryhill, the manager for the Bakersfield Blaze, called me at 8:15am that morning and I didn't recognize the number so I didn't answer it. He left me a message to call him back that he needed to talk to me. I called him back and he said "pack your stuff," I didn't know what to think, I thought I had pitched pretty well in my 3 starts and didn't do too terribly, but it was then that he told me that I was going to Frisco. It didn't set in until I got off the plane and got picked up that this was really happening. I had seen the ballpark before but it was 10 o'clock at night, so being able to walk out of the tunnel and look around was amazing.

Kaufmann: How did it go the first time you met the players here?

Bannister: Most of the guys I've known before, they're all real friendly guys, they take care of you if you need anything, they'll bend over backwards for you. You can always talk to them, sit down and ask them questions, there's nothing they won't help you with.

Kaufmann: Talk about this young Frisco team.

Bannister: They execute, every time they have an opportunity they take advantage of it. We have a great bunch of guys here, we're well rounded when it comes to pitching, defense and hitting. There's never that one spot in the lineup that you think isn't going to produce.

Kaufmann: I know you've had a chance to speak with Pitching Coach Terry Clark. What did you guys discuss?

Bannister: We played catch, talked a little bit about what my role was going to be here. For the first two nights, they'd have me in the bullpen, get a few innings in and stay loose and ready to go. Then they told me on Tuesday to be ready to go and today I was told that I'd be starting on Thursday.

Kaufmann: What do you expect out of yourself as you begin your time with Frisco?

Bannister: I want to have good quality starts, I feel as a starter that I need to keep the team in ballgames and give them a chance to win. Give it 100% every time I get on the mound and go 5-6+ innings.

Kaufmann: This being your first start for the RoughRiders, do you expect your parents to be in attendance?

Bannister: I don't think my parents will be here, but then again he told me he had to work when I had my first start for Bakersfield and then I look up as I'm playing catch and he's sitting in the stands, so I don't know what to expect. I would love for them to be here, but we'll have to wait and see.


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