Q&A with Royals hurler Brian Bannister
Right-hander discusses variety of topics with MLB.com
MLB.com: Growing up, you traveled city to city seeing your father, former Major Leaguer Floyd Bannister, pitch. What was it like to travel to different cities? How did that affect your school life?
Bannister: Up until fourth grade, I went to private school and when Spring Training hit, I would fly to Florida from Arizona and the school would just mail out homework every week and we would just do addition and multiplication in Spring Training. In fifth and sixth grade, we stayed back because I was now in Little League. I had to play Little League with my friends, so I would play there and then I would go and catch up with my dad wherever he was playing.
MLB.com: You also got to travel with professional teams and live overseas in Japan. What were those experiences like?
Bannister: During the season, my mom, having three little boys, would pick and choose a few trips ahead of time to cities that we wanted to go see. It wasn't until my dad's last year in 1992 when he played for Bobby Valentine and the Rangers and Valentine let each family pick a couple of trips and we actually got to go on the team charter. That's pretty rare, I don't think anybody does it nowadays. We got to go to about six different cities and that was a lot of fun. I was 12 years old and I still remember it pretty vividly.
Probably my most unique experience was going over to Japan for a year in 1990. My dad played for the Yakult Swallows and lived in a city called Hiro just south of Tokyo. It was a lot of fun. I had just turned 10 years old and had my first case of chicken pox over there. It's wasn't fun. We couldn't find a doctor that could speak the language, but I have a lot of memories over there.
MLB.com: What do you remember the most about your dad?
Bannister: It was really just his work ethic. I remember being on my bike around Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium and in Texas right around Arlington. He would go out on his flush runs, his distance runs the day after he pitched. I would be on my little bike and he would be running and I would tag along behind him. I would just try to keep up with him, but he would run faster than I could bike. He would do medicine ball sit-ups and I would stand on his feet and I would throw it back. I remember it was so heavy at the time. I remember him working hard.
MLB.com: You seem to be a very quiet person in the Royals' clubhouse, just going about your business and getting in your work. How did you become like that?
Bannister: Growing up, I remember my mom would joke that I was the man of the house sometimes because my dad was away and I had to keep my brothers in line. It was totally true. It was definitely hard on her if I got out of line, because she was dragging us all over the place. I just know how tough this lifetime is and her trying to keep up with my dad with three little boys. It was tremendous stress on her, so I kind of felt that responsibility to stay in line. It's kind of contributes to my personality and the way that I am, I kind of keep to myself. I don't get too crazy. I am kind of mellow and I think it is because of that.
MLB.com: You didn't start out as a pitcher and you were a walk-on second baseman at the University of Southern California. How did you switch to the mound and what was that experience like for you?
Bannister: I used to throw sidearm as a second baseman, basically I didn't have any arm strength. I could turn the double play and could make the throw from second base to first. My freshman year, I topped out at 84 miles per hour, which means I should have no shot at pitching at the Division I level. I pitched nine or 10 innings that year. I gave up a homer to [current Athletics shortstop] Bobby Crosby in my first inning against Long Beach State in the opening series of the year. He teed off on me and I said this is never going to work, but I kept working at it and I grew a lot that year and ended up adding a couple inches and about 20 pounds. My dad also grew that year as well in his freshman year of college. I ended up throwing in the low-90s, about what I am now.
MLB.com: How does being a position player help you on the mound? You enjoyed a tremendous start to June, posting a 4-0 record and 1.61 ERA and nudging yourself into possible contention for an All-Star berth.
Bannister: A lot of how I pitch goes back to when I used to hit. I try to put myself in the hitter's shoes: Which pitch do I really not want to see right now? It's kind of that backwards thinking that helps me out on the mound. I remember I used to struggle when guys changed speeds pretty well and used to pitch backwards. I really try to emulate that. It's almost like I am pitching against myself out there."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.