Danks' family bonds thrive in Chicago

Danks' family bonds thrive in Chicago

 Danks' family bonds thrive in Chicago
CHICAGO -- When John Danks returns to work with the White Sox this weekend in Los Angeles or next week in Chicago, he will be pitching under the expert guidance of Don Cooper and Juan Nieves.

But back in Austin, Texas, there's an unofficial coach for Danks. This man derives infinitely more pride from every one of his victories, scoreless innings and strikeouts. This man is his father, John Danks, Sr.

"Still to this day, he tells me nobody knows me better than he does and coaches me," said a smiling Danks about his father. "I told him, 'Coop gets paid a lot of money to be the pitching coach.'"

The Danks' family pride was on full display this past weekend at U.S. Cellular Field. During each of the three games played against the Astros, John, his wife, Renee, and daughter, Emily, were all in attendance.

It's a gregarious, close-knit group to begin with, and they spend countless hours together during the offseason. They now have even more reasons to smile where the White Sox and their family are concerned. John is about ready to return from a stint on the disabled list caused by a left shoulder strain, and Jordan Danks, the family's equally-talented middle child, made his Major League debut on Thursday night as a pinch-runner.

In the course of three games, Jordan picked up his first hit, made his first big league start, had his first multihit game and first stolen base. The Danks brothers are blessed with an immense amount of talent, but their competitive instincts were refined by a man who once played basketball for the University of Texas.

"With him, it was always, 'if you are going to play, play to win,' whether that be a baseball game or checkers," said John of his father's influence. "We weren't allowed to quit, that's the way it is. If we signed up to play a season, we are going to play a whole season and make every game and play to win. I owe a lot of my attitude to both my parents."

"He was always very supportive, and my mother, too," said Jordan, who was joined by his wife, Ashley, for his big league debut. "We like to give her credit. They are always saying that John and I are playing baseball and Emily is at Ohio St., tearing it up in volleyball. My dad played college basketball so we like to say we get all of our athleticism from mom."

Jordan tells the story of a little 10-foot-by-10-foot slab of concrete with a basketball hoop in the back yard of the Danks' family home. Countless elbows have been thrown back there, with Jordan joking that even Emily got in a few games when she became a competitive athlete.

"She was always playing piano and dancing when she was growing up, a real girly girl," said Jordan of his sister. "So when she started playing competitive sports, we felt like we needed to toughen her up a little bit, and she's pretty competitive.

"My dad still brags, 'I'm 50 years old and I'm still running around with you guys back here.' Whatever: we'll lower the goal to eight feet so all of us can dunk. Actually, I think the whole right side of the backboard currently is still missing. It just broke off. But that's kind of where he toughened us up and made us real competitive."

John explained that their dad was coach for all their basketball and baseball teams but also the guy in the back yard helping them out.

"If you had a bad game, he understood that. He played team sports and understood that," said John of his dad. "Definitely there were times where it was like, 'Hey, you need to do this better and that better,' and he coached us.

"We didn't miss meals for having bad games or anything like that," said John with a laugh. "He was very supportive. It's pretty well documented we have a pretty tight-knit family anyway. But at the same time, he didn't sugar coat things either. He made sure we were doing things the right way."

John would play catch with his father countless times in the back yard to work on his craft. His dad would sit on the cable box and John would throw from the little bump, "where [their] buried dog was the mound."

One day, that all changed.

"I threw one, and he just missed it," John said. "It was too hard and he just said, 'That's it. No more.'"

Now, John Danks, Sr. remains a highly interested and proud spectator. The happy focus of his family falls upon on Nos. 50 and 20, but they have adopted the rest of the White Sox as well.

"This is an exciting time, especially since Jordan is playing well the first couple of games he got in," John said. "It has been fun for the family.

"Dad is living through us now, and he loves it. They don't miss a game. Whether I'm pitching or not and before Jordan got here, they watched every game. I joke that my parents know more about the White Sox than I do. But they tell us every time we talk to them how proud they are of us. It's been fun. This is cool."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.