On June 1, Zachary Banks got a phone call from an assistant baseball coach at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offering Banks a spot on the Eagles’ baseball team.
The next day, Banks celebrated his 18th birthday, then graduated from Seabreeze High School with honors.
Banks has a full academic scholarship to Embry-Riddle. He waited to accept a college offer, hoping to get one that included playing baseball.
He also was awarded substantial academic scholarships to Rollins College, the University of North Florida and the University of Florida, but none of them included spots on the baseball team. He accepted ERAU’s offer.
“I always knew I wanted to go to college,” Banks said. “My parents have always preached education first, and that I always need a backup. So I put education first and baseball has just been a bonus for me.”
Seabreeze head baseball coach Jeff Lemon and assistant Jordan Johnson were teammates at ERAU. Lemon played baseball with the Eagles from 2010 to 2013.
“Zachary is an amazing young man and comes from a wonderfully supportive family,” Lemon said. “He has worked extremely hard in the classroom and on the baseball field to be provided the opportunity to excel at the collegiate level. His work has shown the underclassmen what it takes to receive an offer to be a student athlete at a university such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.”
As ... one of the few African Americans at Seabreeze, I just strive to show that anybody can do anything. I just try to lead by example, and I’ve always done that. I like to lead by my actions.
— ZACHARY BANKS, Seabreeze graduate
Banks' love of athletics started on the sidelines in a Pack ’N Play in Astor, Florida. Banks’ mother, Michelle Banks, said he used to put his face toward the fence and watch his brother and sister play team sports.
His 28-year-old sister, Ciera Banks, played softball for Bethune-Cookman then transferred to graduate from the University of Central Florida. His 25-year-old brother, Aaron Banks, played baseball for Seabreeze, then graduated from the University of South Florida. Both siblings also played soccer and basketball.
“I look up to them,” Zachary Banks said. “They taught me everything I know. My parents did, as well. They taught me to always try to do something fun like baseball.”
Banks began his baseball career at the age of 4 and tried other sports — a brief stint at football at 11 and basketball through his freshman year — but baseball was always his go-to. When he was 12, he played in a tournament in Cooperstown, New York, with the Ormond Beach Golden Spikes, then played competitively with the Ocala Elite from age 13 to 16.
He remained with the team for another year after it became Team Watson in support of the coach’s son’s mother, who survived over 90 days in the hospital with COVID-19. Banks loved the team, so his mom and his father, Todd Banks, made a collective effort to drive him the four-hour round-trip to practice on the weekends.
“You do whatever you think is going to benefit your child,” Todd Banks said.
In his senior season at Seabreeze, Banks helped the Sandcrabs win the District 5-5A championship with a 12-2 win against Pine Ridge. He scored both runs in the 'Crabs' 2-1 regional quarterfinal win against Wesley Chapel as well as the only run in the 6-1 regional semifinal loss to Sebring.
Banks has struck a balance between his athletic and academic prowess. In fifth grade, he discovered an affinity for math and strove to challenge himself by taking advanced courses in middle and high school. During his junior year, he took AP Calculus; in his senior year, he took AP Statistics. He graduated from Seabreeze summa cum laude with a 4.4 GPA, a scholar and merit designation and an AICE diploma.
This fall, Banks hopes to study Aviation Business Administration at ERAU. He discovered he enjoys business and marketing after taking an AICE business course and a marketing class in high school. He said he “likes bringing products to life.”
His plan for success in his freshman year of college includes stepping out of his comfort zone and making new connections.
“I want to show that anybody can do anything,” he said. “As ... one of the few African Americans at Seabreeze, I just strive to show that anybody can do anything. I just try to lead by example, and I’ve always done that. I like to lead by my actions.”