Manassas Journal Messenger | Baseball part of Bannpn’s family tree


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The 2003 season is barely three weeks old, but Potomac Cannons shortstop Jeff Bannon has already generated quite a buzz.

Visiting scouts, on their first tour through the Carolina League, have been impressed with Bannons’ defensive mobility and his consistency at the plate.

That shouldn’t surprise anybody who has seen the 6-foot-4 infielder play. A 23-year-old out of the Cal Ripken mold, he has a family tree with roots embedded in stadium turf.

“I’ve been swinging a bat since I was young enough to walk,” said Bannon, whose father, Mel, played minor-league ball in the Twins organization. “I grew up on the field.”

So did Bannon’s sister, Kelley and two brothers, Chris and Mike. While Jeff starred at UC-Santa Barbara, Kelley was an all-American softball player at Cal Poly San Obisco.

“I learned technique early on and that’s helped me compete with guys who are better athletically than me,” Bannon explained. “Hitting is the most fun aspect of the game. It’s the most difficult, too, but also the most rewarding.”

In the advanced Class A Carolina League, Bannon has been one of the circuit’s most productive players early on. Through Potomac’s first 16 games, he was batting .288 with two homers, nine RBI and a .508 slugging percentage.

Only center fielder Chris Denorfia has more hits among Cannons starters.

“It’s always important at the beginning of the year to start out well,” Bannon said. “Every year I’d like to hit .300, but .270 or better is a strong season.”

An 18th-round draft pick in 2001, Bannon is on pace to produce career highs in every offensive category. He batted .260 in each of his first two professional seasons and was part of a California League championship squad at Stockton last summer.

“For the most part, starting out at the lower levels, it was easy to anticipate what the pitchers were going to throw,” said Bannon, who went 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles and four RBI in a recent 13-5 win at Lynchburg.

“The more I move up,” he added, “it’s starting to become more difficult.”

Bannon has rarely experienced a lengthy slump at the plate. He hit .430 as a senior at Carmillo High School and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.

As a freshman at UC Santa Barbara, Bannon moved into the starting lineup midway through the season and wound up leading the Gouchos in homers two consecutive years.

Now, in an eight-team league, Bannon faces a challenge almost every night. He has already gone up against Pittsburgh’s No. 1 prospect John Van Benschoten, Braves prospect Macay McBride, teenage phenom Zack Greinke of Wilmington, first-round draft pick Wyatt Allen, and rising Indians’ star J.D. Martin.

Each one of those pitchers is ranked among their organization’s top-30 prospects. At the rate he’s hitting, it might not be long before Bannon makes that list with the Reds.

“My number one concern is to play the game as hard as I can,” he said. “That’s the only thing I can control.”

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