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Gainesville grad Banks Griffith deals with adversity, will continue college baseball
Banks Griffith
Furman University's Banks Griffith, a Gainesville High graduate, stretches for the ball during a 2020 game in Greenville, South Carolina.

Without an unwavering faith in God, Banks Griffith isn’t sure how he would have handled the baseball roller coaster he’s been on since Furman University pulled the plug on its program May 18.

He couldn’t have known that his last game as a second baseman for the Paladins would be March 10 against Quinnipiac University. 

However, the coronavirus pandemic would eventually wash out the 2020 season, not even at the midway point. Then, the school made the decision, one they said was strictly based on finances, to abruptly disband what had been a successful baseball program at the private school in Greenville, South Carolina.

The move by the school's administration left Griffith, a sophomore and the youngest of three brothers to play for the Paladins, with lots of questions and no immediate answers. 

“My initial reaction was that my world was falling apart,” said Griffith, who started 71 of 75 games at Furman. “But God has a plan for all of us.

“If you trust and believe, he’ll put you where you need to be.”

And, on Tuesday, Griffith was able to say with pride — and a deep sigh of relief — that his next step in his college baseball career would be at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. 

This spring, he wasn’t sure he’d ever play baseball again. 

Coronavirus put a strain on everything and everybody. 

Sports were no exception. 

Frankly, it was going to be an uphill climb to land on his feet. Players across the country were going to have an extra year of eligibility, due to the national public-health crisis, meaning fewer schools were looking for players at the last minute to fill out their roster for the 2021 season. 

Griffith was having to grieve the unpleasant end to his career at Furman, while still remaining hopeful for the future. Baseball remained in the plans, even though he would have to find a new college to do so.

His ties to the program started by attending games at age 12 when his oldest brother, Ryan, started his baseball career with the Paladins. Griffith said his family was his support system when Furman decided to stop fielding a baseball program. 

The Griffith’s go back a full decade with Furman’s baseball program.

His family was represented on the Paladins roster every season from 2012-2020,

“We’ve been so invested in the Furman program that it was a hit to my entire family to lose it,” Griffith said. “My brothers were just as devastated as I was.”

At the same time, he was having to hustle and take a proactive approach to finding a new school. 

He wasn’t going to be overly picky. 

Griffith, who is home in Gainesville for the summer and training at the Stealth Sports Academy, just wanted to continue playing baseball and stay on track for a degree in health sciences. 

“I didn’t care if I had to go all the way to California to play,” said Griffith, who still owns the Red Elephants record with 142 career hits. 

Luckily, he won’t have to uproot and move all the way to the left coast. 

Stetson expressed interested early in his services. Griffith decided to pounce on the opportunity to play for the Hatters. 

Griffith said Stetson is very similar to Furman in terms of academics and school size. Finding out all his credits would transfer was the icing on the cake. 

And moving to the Sunshine State means he would be surrounded by his favorite trees. Stetson is located in Central Florida, less than 30 minutes southwest of Daytona Beach.

“I love palm trees,” said Griffith. “And they have lots of palm trees at Stetson.” 

Now his main concern is to put the trauma of losing one school in the rear view and focus on competing for a starting job at his new school. 

In a sense, it’s like he’s a freshman all over again. 

Griffith goes into Stetson not knowing any of his new teammates, but wants to make an impression right away with three years of eligibility remaining in his college career. 

Griffith realizes there are plenty of silver linings after the Furman program disbanded, which was a shocking decision that had a ripple effect through the college baseball world. 

“Stetson is a great school, and I go in with a good shot to be successful,” he said. “I’m very optimistic.”

“It’s a total adrenaline rush to know I’ll go down there and have to compete.”

The strategy of how Furman delivered the news to players and staff was tinged with an impersonal and corporate feeling that left everyone in the room shaking their head. Griffith said a three-hour advance notice through a text message was all players got about a mandatory meeting through Zoom with its athletic director and members of the school’s administration. 

Then the folks in suits dropped the bombshell. 

“Our athletic director started the meeting by saying, ‘You’ll remember this call for the rest of your life.’”

Losing baseball at Furman was never something that Griffith thought was even a possibility. 

However, the trajectory of his future changed with that one quick announcement. 

But it’s not the end of Banks’ baseball journey.

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