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Banks Cox continues family legacy in baseball

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

Those who have played high school baseball in Forsyth County have probably heard of the Cox family.

The Coxes, led by patriarch Bob, have been a part of baseball in Forsyth County for more than 60 years. And in doing so, he’s passed the family’s love of the sport to his sons Greg and Chris, as well as his grandchildren. One of those grandchildren is Banks Cox, Chris’ second eldest son, who’s a senior at West Forsyth and has signed to played next season at UNC Greensboro. With the season coming down the homestretch, Banks and his family are getting a chance to reflect on the family legacy.

“When I first stepped on the field, when I was about 6, and just watching every time we’d get out and play, every practice we’d go to, everyone would know who my dad was, who my grandfather was, and always talked to me about them,” Banks Cox said. “And it’s been like that ever since I first started.”

Bob graduated in 1960 from old Hanes High School, then played at North Carolina before graduating in 1964. Bob was the assistant baseball coach at Reynolds in 1965, became the head coach in 1966, and was there until 1981. He left Reynolds in 1981 with a record of 223-71, according to wssportsmanclub.org. He then became an assistant coach at Wake Forest under Coach Marvin Crater, the brother or former Reynolds football and wrestling coach Doug Crater. Doug Crater died earlier this year at the age of 88. Bob coached at Wake Forest until 1987 and became at scout for the New York Yankees.

Bob can always be seen these days watching Banks play for West Forsyth.

“It keeps me young,” Bob said. “I coach every game from the stands.”

Greg, Bob’s eldest son, played as a catcher at Reynolds and graduated in 1986. Greg went on to play in college in Wake Forest before graduating in 1990. Chris, the youngest of Bob’s two children, played at Reynolds from 1986-89 and signed to plat North Carolina. Chris finished at North Carolina with 49 home runs, which before this season started, put him second on the school’s all-time home run list set by Devy Bell, who had 57 homers from 1984-87. Chris is also tied for Wake Forest’s Allen Dykstra (2006-08) for 22nd on the ACC’s all-time home run list.

Chris finished with the Tar Heels in 1993, and according to baseball-reference.com, was drafted in the 34th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Atlanta Braves. He played one season with Danville in the Appalachian League.

Greg’s sons Will and Andrew played at Reynolds, and Chris and his wife, Kris, had their eldest son, Scout, play at West Forsyth and graduated in 2019. Chris’ youngest son, Troupe, is 16 and played baseball since he was 9. Chris’ eldest daughter, Poppy, is 13 and doesn’t play, and his youngest daughter, Piper, is 12 and she plays Little League baseball. Greg also has two daughters, Ashley and Katy, who don’t play.

Banks started following Scout at Little League games as a child.

“I was about 4 or 5 at the time, and I dressed up in full baseball uniform, and just go to the side and watch,” Banks said. “It was my choice to play, and I’m very glad I made it.”

The anticipation of playing baseball was something that Banks always thought about.

“Every morning when I was little, we played on the weekends, and I would just wait every day and could not wait until the weekend to play,” Banks said, “It was just my everything.”

One of Banks’ first childhood memories involves baseball.

“I probably even used a bat to help myself walk,” he said.

Chris Cox was even an assistant coach at West Forsyth several seasons ago with Coach Brad Bullard.

“I think that we’re fortunate enough to have a couple boys that, well, actually Piper too, for that matter — enjoy playing,” Chris said. “They grew up in an environment where they were able to go out and play at an early age and learn the game, not only just from myself and my dad, (Banks’) grandfather, there’s a lot of others in Winston that certainly have a good baseball background, too.

“You know, over the years they were able to hone their skills and get better as time went by. Fortunately for Banks, he’s going to get a chance to play at the college level. And I think he’ll do good things one he gets there.”

One of the people who knows baseball in Forsyth County about as well as anyone is Bullard, the head coach at West Forsyth. Bullard played for the Titans and graduated in 2002, helping the Titans reach the NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship his senior season. Bullard succeeded his former coach, Randy Pope, after the 2013 season to become the head coach of the Titans. Bullard has had a chance to coach both Scout and Banks Cox. The two brothers played on the same team at West Forsyth for two seasons.

“It’s been around for a long time,” Bullard said of the Cox legacy. “I got familiar with it when Scout came to West as a freshman. You know, I sort of learned more about Chris. And then learning more about Chris, I learned more about Bob, the grandfather. And I always knew that, hey, there’s a younger brother that’s pretty good, too.

“It’s been crazy. I’ve had a Cox in the program for I guess for the last (six) years. I had Scout for four years and Scout played varsity for four years. And Banks is on his fourth year of playing varsity. So it’s sort of a bittersweet feeling. I’m so glad I’ve had both of those kids in our program. They’ve definitely made West Forsyth a better program and made me a better coach.”

One of Banks’ special memories of playing at West was when he and Scout were both playing at West, and Andrew was still playing at Reynolds. They had several opportunities to play against each other in the Central Piedmont 4-A.

“It was awesome. It was a big family reunion,” Banks said. “It was great. I think we won that game. I’m hoping we did. We had to show the cousins what’s up.”

Banks is also fortunate that the family documented his father’s games.

“We actually have my dad’s tapes when he played because my grandmother would go and record all of his games,” Banks said. “So I’ve been able to actually watch, not all of the stuff he’s done, but I’ve been able to watch a couple balls he’s hit over the scoreboard at Carolina. I have seen a little bit of it.”

Banks has been a catcher his entire career until this season because of an elbow injury that he suffered several seasons ago. He’s had to nurse that injury while deciding to just be a designated hitter this season before playing next season at UNCG.

Even though Banks is a catcher and his father was a shortstop, Banks sees some similarities.

“I think I play a lot like my dad,” Banks said. “I think that every time I go out and hit, he’ll go, ‘I used to hit the ball that far.’ It’s always a ‘back in my day’ speech I get from him.”

Despite the similarities in how Banks and Chris play, it’s been challenging for Banks to go through his arm injury, especially dealing with it during COVID-19.

“It definitely changed everything after I missed my summer of playing, and then the whole recruiting process was stopped,” Banks said. “It definitely made every game just a little bit harder just because it took a little more to get noticed.

“It was scary thinking that my last year of high school baseball could be four games we played last year. But I’m glad it all worked out and I we got to play my senior year.”

He hurt his elbow while throwing off the mound during his freshman summer.

“I didn’t want to slow down because I needed to go somewhere. I needed to be recruited,” Banks said. “So, I just kept telling my dad, ‘Just let me get through recruiting.’

“…I got fortunate enough that UNCG reached out to me, and we found out it’s just going to take some PT (physical therapy), and I’ll be good to go.”

One thing that was even more challenging with recruiting was doing it during COVID-19 because the NCAA has granted an extra year to college athletes, who missed of last year because of the shutdown. That means there will be fifth- and sixth-year seniors on college teams, who are already there.

“With recruiting he missed that sophomore summer because he strained his UCL (ulnar-collateral ligament), so he missed that recruiting, which was the biggest thing that hurt him,” Chris Cox said. “And then when COVID hit, and coaches couldn’t see him play because they made it that time where coaches couldn’t go and see anybody. And they couldn’t have camps.

“So it was hard for him to be noticed because all you do is just send video. These guys having people re-class and jump back. There’s so many schools now that have 50 players on the roster. And they’re having to redshirt, there’s no spots. So he was saying, ‘I’ve got to do whatever I can do to get people to see what I can do.'”

That’s when Bullard sat down with Banks to work out the recruiting process while also helping Banks nurse his injury.

“I just told him, ‘Banks, I get it,'” Bullard said. “When you’re hurt, this day and age when you’ve got to go to showcase camps and play showcase ball. And when you can’t, it is what it is. He wasn’t able to get out and really be seen as much.

“But, you know, Banks is a special player. He’s literally has got some of the quickest hands and best power I’ve ever coached. His arm is explosive. His bat is explosive. And I just told him, I said, ‘Banks, be patient. They’re (college offers) going to come along.’ And I do, I think (UNCG) is a perfect fit for him. It’s close to home. I know he’s close with his family. I know his dad and grandpa, they don’t miss a game.”

Banks is grateful for the opportunity to play this season for West Forsyth, but misses catching.

“Every day, when I go out to practice, when I go to games it’s just not painful, but it’s disappointing that my senior year I don’t get to be behind the plate half the game.”

Catchers are almost coaches on the field, so not having Banks catch this season for the Titans has been a loss.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a loss,” Bullard said. “Anytime you lose a senior catcher who’s been on varsity for four years, that’s a loss.”

One proud spectator at the Titans’ games has noticed what Banks is doing.

“I’m disappointed that he can’t do the other stuff,” Bob Cox said about his grandson. “Hopefully I’ll be getting four more years when he goes down to Greensboro.”

As long as Banks’ arm heals, his grandfather sees something special in him.

“He’s got a chance because, if his arm (heals), because he can throw and he can hit,” Bob Cox said. “And he’s got the size to be a catcher. So if things work out like they’re supposed to, he’s possibly got a future.”

Bullard said that he received a message from the father of one of the other catchers on the team.

“I’ll tell you this. I haven’t even told Banks this yet, and you can publish this because I’m going to share it with Banks. Right now, we’ve sort of been splitting the catching duties between a junior and a sophomore,” Bullard said. “And I got an email (last) week and honestly pulled at my heart a little bit. It was from one of the catchers’ fathers.

“And he reached out to me and he wanted to basically say thank you to me, but specifically a thank you to Banks because Banks has taken those guys under his wing and truly coached them up and encouraged them. You know, I knew he was doing that a little bit, but to get an email from a dad, seeing what a senior, who’s hurt, is doing for a sophomore and junior. Once again, in this day and age, what does that say about a kid?”

As of Monday, West Forsyth is 5-5 overall and 4-4 in the Central Piedmont 4-A. It lost to Reagan 5-2 last Tuesday in Pfafftown, but bounced back to beat Reagan 5-3 in Clemmons last Thursday night. West Forsyth played at against Glenn Tuesday night and finishes the regular season today in Kernersville against Glenn. The conference tournament is next week.

“West showed me a lot,” Banks said. “It showed me who I am as a player, and it showed me what I’m capable of.”

Although the Cox family doesn’t toot its own horn, it just wants to show the rest of the county and North Carolina what baseball has meant.

“I think the biggest thing I know I can say, and I think my two boys (Scout and Banks) would say, and even Piper would say, is there’s a certain way you should play the game,” Chris said while getting emotional. “That was something that was taught to me (early), and it’s something you can pass down.”

For Banks, who is the last currently playing for the family, he knows the legacy of baseball for Forsyth County and the Coxes themselves.

“I think he gets emotional because I’m going to be the last one (Chris) throws BP (batting practice) to,” Banks said.