Peter Fairbanks knows that people are going to get on his case.
In fact, he could probably calculate the odds of that happening using some arcane mathematical formula.
Fairbanks, one of the Spokane Indians’ steadiest starting pitchers, scored 34 out of 36 on his ACT, the standardized test designed to show high school students’ readiness for college. According to the Princeton Review, the average score for students taking the ACT is 20-21.
“You get your fair share of ribbing just from the fact that nobody likes the guy who’s smart and athletic,” said Fairbanks, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander. “I got it in high school. I got it at (the University of Missouri). I get it now. I’m still trying to become a good pitcher, but I’m also able to process knowledge fairly quickly. … And I’m a little bit of a smart aleck. That can rub on people. It just comes with the territory.”
Fairbanks speaks with such confidence that some might consider him cocky, but Indians manager Tim Hulett begs to differ.
“He’s a competitive guy out there,” Hulett said. “That’s what I love about him. I don’t know if (he’s) cocky. I’d say ‘fiery.’
“He is smart. Too much for his own good sometimes, but he’s a fiery competitor and I love that about him.”
Fairbanks comes by his intelligence naturally. His mother Jane, a fourth-grade teacher, encouraged him to read voraciously from an early age.
“I feel like you have to be well-rounded,” Fairbanks said. “You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Growing up I read a ton. A ton. Not even like a proverbial ton, an actual ton. That’s played a big part in me loving to learn.”
His athletic abilities are also genetic. His father Shane (yes, Jane and Shane – Peter said he had to “veto from the womb” their desire to call him Wayne) was a baseball star at Missouri and played in the minors in 1983. Several relatives on his mother’s side played football for the Tigers.
Jane made a name for herself as a prep basketball player.
“She’s the career rebounds leader at her high school and the career technicals leader,” Fairbanks said. “She once got a tech for throwing the ball at the ref. I don’t think you’re supposed to do that.”
The family also adopted Lia, now 7 years old, from China when Fairbanks was a high school freshman in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis.
Fairbanks’ baseball career took a slight detour when he required Tommy John surgery during his high school junior year. That affected his draft status and cemented his plans to heal and improve at Missouri.
The Tigers used Fairbanks sparingly at first, but he was a vital starter this season as a junior. His career record at Missouri was 8-12, but his earned-run average was lower than 4.00 and he struck out 114 in 145 innings.
“Can’t say I had as good a numbers as I would have liked, but I put us in position to win pretty much all my starts and that was something that was one of my goals,” Fairbanks said.
The Texas Rangers selected Fairbanks in the ninth round of June’s draft and assigned him to Spokane. He had never been west of Devils Tower in Wyoming.
Fairbanks picked up his first professional win last Sunday by holding Salem-Keizer to three hits and one earned run in five innings, striking out six.
“I look at it as I want to get better every start,” Fairbanks said. “I want to do something that I didn’t do before, and I think that I’ve been able to do that for the most part.”
Fairbanks, who studied aerospace engineering at Missouri, has a clear vision about his goals.
“Baseball is 1A,” he said. “Designing fighter jets will be my 1B and my 1C would be becoming a broadcaster. I have the voice for it, right? I have the voice and the knowledge. That’s all you need.”