We’ve done some Q&As with players before – Curtis Granderson, Jason Hirsh, and Michael Barrett. This time, for our Brian Bannister Q&A, we had readers submit the questions. Brian really went the extra mile to accomodate, providing thoughtful and elaborate answers. Great stuff – many thanks to him for participating. We’ll break this up into several parts. (UPDATE: Read Part 2 and Part 3).
MLBTR: What was your initial reaction when you heard that the Mets had traded you to the Royals? Where were you when it happened, and who told you?
Bannister: As baseball players, all we want is an opportunity to play. I don’t know what plans the Mets had for me in 2007 before the trade, but I knew that the Royals wanted me to step up and be in the starting rotation right away, and that’s all I could ask for. The Mets will always be very special to me. They took a chance and drafted me, they invested a lot of time and resources in me over the years in the minor leagues, and they let me represent their organization in 2006 at the major league level. I have a lot of respect for the Wilpon family and the way they run their organization, the coaches that made sacrifices for me, and the fans that supported me. I will be eternally grateful to the Brooklyn Cyclones and their fans, because my career began there, and at the end of 2006 they retired my number 19 at Keyspan Park.
Ironically, the day before I was traded I was at a card show in New York City, and was signing autographs at a table in between my friend (and Mets pitcher) John Maine and Royals great Bo Jackson, whom I had known as a child when my father played for the Royals but had not seen in over 15 years. Bo and I talked for a while afterwards, and we told Royals stories from the 80’s. Little did I know I would be a Royal the next day.
MLBTR: How much of your success in this game so far do you contribute to having a father who was a successful Major Leaguer? Do you have any kind of rivalry with him, hoping to put up better numbers than he did in his time?
Bannister: One thing I’ve always appreciated about my father is that he never forced me to play the game of baseball. Instead, he always made himself available to practice with me if I felt like it, and that’s what made me want to work even harder at the game.
I attribute a lot of my success to the simple fact that I grew up with a baseball and a bat in my hands at all times. I believe that the human body develops coordination and skill in the early years much easier than in the adult years, and that is a reason you see so many fathers and sons in the big leagues. I also was able to watch Major League players practice, train, and prepare for games, and I have carried those principles into my own career.
There is no competition between my father and I, but I will openly admit that I am envious of his power left arm. We pitch in a totally different style, and I think we have learned a lot from watching each other pitch.
MLBTR: Have you ever talked to Greg Maddux? Who was your favorite pitcher growing up, outside of your father?
Bannister: I have never had the privilege of talking with Greg Maddux, but I have spent plenty of time watching him on video. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Tom Glavine, who is from the same mold as Maddux as a pitcher. The one thing I appreciate about both is their mental toughness and unwillingness to give in to hitters. My favorite quote from Maddux is:
"When they’re in a jam, a lot of pitchers…try to throw harder. Me, I try to locate better."
I have pitched with that quote in the back of my mind for my entire career. Every pitcher is going to give up walks and hits, but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is how many runs you give up.
Greg, if you’re reading this, I’d love to play golf with you someday. Just let me know when and where, and good luck this season.