North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
Scott Bankhead was a mainstay in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen during the 1992 season. When asked why he went to the right-hander from Reidsville so often, manager Lou Pinella answered simply, “It’s because Scott Bankhead gets people out.”
That’s something Bankhead was able to do almost from the time he first picked up a baseball.
He gave a glimpse of his potential by striking out 176 hitters in just 76 innings during his senior year at Reidsville High School in 1981, a season in which he posted a 0.37 earned run average and was named National High School Player of the Year.
Despite being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bankhead instead decided to play college ball at North Carolina, where he went 24-3 overall and a perfect 20-0 in his final two seasons while helping the Tar Heels win three straight ACC championships. He was twice named an All-American in addition to being selected as a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award as the NCAA’s top player.
After spending the summer of 1984 playing on a U.S. team that won an Olympic silver medal, Bankhead was selected by the Kansas City Royals with the 16th overall pick of the draft. It took just 31 minor league games for him to make his major league debut on May 25, 1986. He ended up playing 10 seasons for five teams, with his best performances coming in 1989 when he went 14-6 as a starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners and that 1992 season in Cincinnati, when he went 10-4 as a reliever for the Reds.
Bankhead’s resume includes mention as one of the NCHSAA’s 100 to Remember along with induction into both the North Carolina Sports and American Legion baseball halls of fame. He continues to have an impact on baseball in his home state through his North Carolina Baseball Academy in Greensboro — a training ground for up-and-coming players whose alumni list includes NC State star and recent first-round draft pick Patrick Bailey.