DETROIT -- Tanner Banks Facetimed his wife, Chandler, shortly after the left-handed hurler received news he would break camp with the White Sox from manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Ethan Katz.
Making a Major League team for the first time becomes a big deal for even the highest-ranked of prospects. But for the 30-year-old, who was an 18th-round pick in the 2014 Draft, the achievement marked the culmination of 168 Minor League appearances and 743 1/3 Minor League innings.
Needless to say, it was a life-changing moment for Banks.
“When I got to my phone, I was emotional,” Banks said prior to Friday’s season opener at Comerica Park. “But when I got to my cell phone and started punching her number in, I broke down crying.
“She picked up the [call] and I was in tears. She looked at me and smiled. I wanted to play a joke on her like, ‘I got released,’ or, ‘They are sending me to the Minors,’ or something, but she knew. It was special.”
Over 25 games last season with Triple-A Charlotte, Banks struck out 70 while allowing just 13 walks over 59 2/3 innings. His fastball velocity had ticked up approximately four mph, with Banks attributing that gain to work with a core velocity belt prior to the pandemic, and learning to use his lower half.
General manager Rick Hahn mentioned Banks was a “decently popular guy down the stretch last year, in terms of other teams inquiring about his availability.” So Banks became a White Sox re-signing priority this offseason and received a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Banks struck out five Dodgers during his first Cactus League start and had a strong camp.
“In Tanner's situation, credit to [scout] John Kazanas for recommending him in the 18th round, recommending him to the organization as a guy who would be solid for taking the ball,” Hahn said. “Got a lot of swings and misses on his fastball, breaking ball. It's good to see. Nice success story from scouting and player development.”
“I thought I was successful,” Banks said of his Spring Training effort. “I came into [Minor League] mini-camp and got ready to go before the rest of the guys showed up. Really just tried to go out and prove myself and show that I was ready to go. And then obviously every opportunity I got I tried to run with.”
The White Sox reassigned Banks to Minor League camp on March 29 along with eight other players, but he was called back to pitch for Chicago during Tuesday’s Cactus League finale in Peoria, Ariz. The need for another left-handed option to go with Aaron Bummer and rookie Bennett Sousa came about when Garrett Crochet’s valuable bullpen arm was lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery.
It was during that game at the Peoria Sports Complex that La Russa and Katz created a memory for Banks to be cherished with his wife and two sons for the rest of their lives.
“We were sitting on the bench, going over the outing, and Tony came over and looked at Ethan, looked at [me] and said, ‘Do you want to tell him or should I?’” Banks said. “I stood up and he reached his hand out and shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome to the Major Leagues.’ I still have to pinch myself. It’s been surreal to say the least.
“I’m still shocked. I’m beyond grateful for the White Sox and this opportunity, and looking forward to doing everything I can to benefit the club this year. You paint a picture in your head of what it is. Outside of the group of guys, which is incredible, and the coaching and training staff, everything has exceeded my expectations. It’s been awesome.”