Former Coug a champ

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    By W Kolditz

    Sitting on the bench during the 2003 National League Championship, reserve infielder Brian Banks had plenty of time to think about what situations might arise in the game. At any time, he could be called to perform in a clutch situation.

    But the pressure is all in the wait.

    “Once you get on the field and into the batters box, it”s almost like you”re in your element,” said Banks, a member of the World Champion Florida Marlins. “It”s what you”re used to and what you”re comfortable with. I get more nervous watching the games.”

    But Banks, a journeyman major leaguer, made the most of his opportunities.

    Trailing 5-3 in the fifth inning to the Chicago Cubs in game seven of the NLCS, Marlins manager Jack McKeon called on the former Cougar to pinch-hit for the pitcher. Banks made the most of his opportunity, drawing a walk that started a three-run inning and an eventual Florida win.

    “Obviously, you dream about going up there and hitting the game winning home run, but for me I had the chance to go up there and kind of get things started,” Banks said. “To be the fire starter, the guy to ignite the big inning that we eventually went on to win, was great to be a part of.”

    The Marlins had a magical year in 2003, making a surprise entry into the postseason and an even bigger surprise when they upset the New York Yankees in the World Series.

    “It was great to be a part of a team that started out slow and then started snowballing” Banks said. “It was amazing to see a team come together not really having one or two superstars that carried the team. It was a team where everyone is contributing.”

    His mom, Jackie Banks, believes the Marlins have been a perfect fit for Brian.

    “It”s been a great team for him,” Jackie said. “Everyone of them is very family oriented. They”re compatible with each other. There”s not a lot of superstars and guys with big head, so they got along really well.”

    Banks played baseball for BYU during the 1990 and 1993 seasons with a Church mission to Seattle in between. Although the Baltimore Orioles drafted him in the sixth round out of high school, he turned it down, wanting to leave open the opportunity to serve a mission.

    In his sophomore year at BYU in ”93, Banks was named an All-American. The Milwaukee Brewers then made him their second round choice in the draft.

    “It is unique to increase your draft status after leaving for two years,” Banks said. “There were people that said, ”You”ll lose your talent,” and ”You”ll definitely decrease your draft status.””

    After starting out his professional career with the Helena Brewers in the Pioneer League, Banks received his call to the big leagues in 1996 with the Brewers. He was called up in September after a successful season with the organization”s triple-A team.

    “When I got the call, it was a sense of excitement, a sense of accomplishment,” Banks said. “To call my wife and tell her I just got called to the big leagues was definitely something you dream about.

    “It brings so much excitement, not only to myself, but also to my wife who had encouraged me and been there for a support system throughout the minor league system. It can be very hectic, very depressing at times. It has its ups and downs, but it can all go away and make it all worthwhile when you finally get that call.”

    After his playing days are over, Banks said he would like to remain in baseball, although he doesn”t want to coach. He said he would love a job in broadcasting or within the front office.

    But for now, Banks is digesting his team”s World Series championship and dreaming of another chance in 2004.

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