Sox's Danks Part Of A Family Tradition

CHICAGO | Thursday, March 01, 2007

Eldest son in very athletic clan

Competition never scared John Danks.

The new White Sox pitcher has become accustomed to friendly battles as close as in his own back yard.Danks' younger brother Jordan is a sophomore standout left fielder at the University of Texas. And "little" sister Emily, standing nearly 6 feet 2 inches, already has attracted interest from several Division I college volleyball programs after her sophomore season at Round Rock High School in Texas. "My family jokes that I'm the least athletic person because all I do is stand and throw a ball," said Danks, 21, whom Baseball American ranked as the Rangers' top prospect before he came to the Sox in December. "My relationship with my brother, sister and parents is that we're a close-knit family. We're always pulling for each other, and I can name every stat for my brother this year." The bar, however, was raised well before the Danks kids developed into star athletes. John B. Danks was a high school basketball standout in Kentucky before playing four years under the legendary Abe Lemons at Texas and eventually marrying his wife Renee, a former a high school cheerleader. But John W. Danks could be the first family member to reach the major leagues. The 6-foot-1-inch left-hander is competing for the fifth spot in the Sox rotation and impressed manager Ozzie Guillen in his spring debut Wednesday. "I can't ask for anything better," Danks said. "This is really as close as I've been to the big leagues, and the ball is in my court now. "Obviously, there are other guys with more time than me, and it might be more convenient to put them on the big-league roster. "I can't think about that. I have to get outs and put the pressure on them." When it comes to competition, Danks doesn't even cut his little brother any slack. He recalled he faced his brother twice, striking him out on three pitches and then allowing a hit in a high school alumni game. But John recalled getting the better end of that deal by picking Jordan off base. "We're pretty competitive," Jordan said during a phone interview. "Sometimes we lower the basketball goal in the back yard to eight feet. We've gone through four goals." Even the family swim game of "sharks and minnows" can be intense. "Every thing we do is a competition," John B. Danks chuckled. But there's plenty of support, even during some tough times. John recalled how he and his father "butted heads" over a decision not to allow John to play varsity basketball after his sophomore year because a teammate tore up his knee and Danks' father didn't want his son risking injury and jeopardizing his baseball career. Making the decision more difficult was that John had to go to every subsequent Round Rock game to watch Jordan play. "We weren't a very good basketball school, but I loved basketball," John said. "In hindsight, I'm very thankful that my father did that." The first payoff came in the form of a $2.1 million bonus out of high school. Even if Danks doesn't make the Opening Day roster, his sharp curve, low-90 m.p.h. fastball and excellent pickoff move should help him reach the majors next season at the latest. He already has received some Hall of Fame advice from Round Rock-area resident Nolan Ryan. Danks met Ryan before the 2003 draft and was his guest at a Houston Astros game. "He invites us to lunch all the time," Danks said. "He has taken me under his wing and helped me." Jordan, who stands 6 feet 5 inches, could be on a similar path. His commitment to college at Texas kept teams from drafting him in the first or second round in 2005. But the Sox selected him in the 19th round and kept a professional relationship with the family. "When John got traded, I said, 'cool,'" Jordan said. "If I signed, we would have been in the same system." John getting traded to the Sox made the Danks family happy and could lead to bigger things in 2008 when Jordan becomes eligible for the draft again. "We were extremely happy with him to be with the White Sox," John B. Danks said. "It's our hope and desire for the White Sox to draft [Jordan] again." Copyright 2007, The Chicago Tribune John Danks trained with CATZ in Austin, Texas, in preparation for 2007 spring training. His sister, Emily, and her Austin Junior Volleyball Club trains with CATZ.

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