Senior Spotlight: Trinity baseball standout ready to take to the sky

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Thursday, May 28, 2020 | 1:54 PM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trinity senior Jax Banco remembers flying to Florida to visit his brother at college.

While he was sitting in his seat, the Hillers backstop thought to himself how cool it would be to be an airplane pilot.

“I kind of just fell in love with it from there,” Banco said.

So, thinking he should get an understanding for planes and the profession in general, he took a job at the Washington County Airport, where he tugs planes, refuels them and does engine maintenance, basically anything to improve his knowledge.

On Thursday, the 2019 all-section catcher took another step toward becoming a pilot when he committed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a Division II school in Daytona Beach, Fla. It’s the largest accredited university system specializing in aviation and aerospace.

Banco will study aeronautical science/professional flight.

“I went down and visited last summer and kind of fell in love with the place,” Banco said. “Then I went to a baseball camp there, and the coach noticed me. So, when I found out my season got canceled, I was all bummed out. But I got a phone call, and they said they were going to offer me a scholarship. So, it was kind of bittersweet.”

While working at Washington County Airport, Banco has had the opportunity sit in the cockpits of planes. His commitment Thursday made those moments that much more special.

“I clean the inside planes sometimes, and some of the pilots will let me sit in the cockpit and mess around with the controls,” Banco said. “I’m so close to really doing that now. It’s kind of surreal thinking I could be sitting here in three years.”

Pursuing his pilot’s license, which he hopes to use to fly for UPS or FedEx one day, isn’t the only dream Banco will be pursuing. He also will continue his baseball career with a program that has a knack for sending players to the big leagues.

Embry-Riddle has 13 NCAA Division II World Series appearances, 21 conference titles and 33 MLB signees. The history surrounding the program was enough to reel Banco in, and he can’t wait to get started.

“You’re a little kid on the field, 8 or 9, and you just want to keep moving forward,” Banco said. “When you get to high school it gets a little more real. Then, once you get that first offer, you’re one good season away from getting drafted, and that’s always been a dream of mine. You never know what can happen.”

What’s your favorite memory while playing baseball for Trinity?

Last year, our opening game at home was against Ringgold. Everyone was there cheering us on, and it was kind of like our hometown game. It was an awesome experience. We won. It was a close game. That was just something I’ll always have and cherish forever.

Who is the one pitcher you want to face?

Clayton Kershaw just because he’s a beast on the mound, and I’d love to catch him or hit off of him.

If you could change positions where would you play?

I definitely wouldn’t be a pitcher. I think I’d play in the outfield.

What’s a day during quarantine look like?

I wake up around 10 a.m., run a few miles, eat lunch around 12, work out, then around 3 I’ll go to work for a little bit. Then I’ll come home, hit, do catching drills and kind of hang out with friends and family later in the day.

Have you picked up any new hobbies?

I usually never play video games and my brothers play all the time, so I’ve been competing with them trying to beat them. I’m always trying to win in whatever I do. So I’m trying to grind out and beat them in video games when I can.

What’s your favorite sports memory as a fan?

I went to a Yankees and Boston game last year at Yankees Stadium, and I sat behind home plate. The Yankees won in extra innings, and that stadium is just awesome. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you could switch places with anyone in the world who would it be?

I would definitely say LeBron James or Michael Jordan.

If you could choose anyone to give the commencement speech at your graduation who would it be?

I would say someone like Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Someone who is super smart or talented in what they do academic-wise. Academics come first for everybody, so I think it’d be cool to learn what they have to say.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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