Hog calls:

Benintendi is a beaut of a ballplayer

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, June 13, 2015
Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi warms up Thursday, June 4, 2015, during practice at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi warms up Thursday, June 4, 2015, during practice at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Age before beauty, they say.

Andrew Benintendi can confirm they are correct.

Benintendi is sitting pretty after winning three national player of the year awards with a chance to add a fourth, but the real beauty for Arkansas' center fielder is his age.

As a sophomore, Benintendi normally would not have been available for this week's major-league baseball draft. If a player signs with a Division I college coming out of high school, he must wait three years before he can be drafted again.

But if a collegian is 21 within a month of the draft he is draft eligible. Benintendi turns 21 on July 6, which is a beautiful thing for him.

Benintendi hit .380 with 19 home runs, 55 RBI and had 23 stolen bases while playing a superb center field and leading Arkansas to Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series, where the Razorbacks will face Virginia today.

The Boston Red Sox also took Benintendi seventh overall Monday in the first round of the major-league draft.

LSU pitcher Aaron Nola, the seventh pick in last year's draft, signed for a $3,300,900 bonus with the Philadelphia Phillies. Benintendi also will dwell in multi-millionaire acres.

"He won't be back, and I wouldn't either," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said before the draft, predicting that Benintendi would receive an offer too good to refuse.

Though an ultimate team player, Benintendi won't feign his Razorbacks career extending beyond Omaha.

"I don't want to say anything I shouldn't, but it will be hard to turn down what I am being offered," Benintendi said.

His patience playing the college game even after he came out of Cincinnati as the 2013 national high school player of the year has been rewarded.

"Coming here, it definitely paid off," Benintendi said.

Perhaps paying off most were those games Benintendi didn't play last summer. The 5-10, 180-pounder lifted weights instead of playing summer ball. His home runs have jumped from one last season to 19 and counting this season.

"I was pretty small last year, and I think putting on some muscle helped my game," Benintendi said. "I put on about 15 pounds."

He also gained and retained considerable respect from teammates after arriving last season as a heralded high school player but acting like an ordinary guy still unchanged even through this extraordinary year.

"Benny is probably one of the most humble guys I have met in my entire life," pitcher Trey Killian said. "That says a lot about him as a person because the spotlight has been on him all year."

Arkansas' seven previous College World Series teams all had players drafted or, in the 1979 team's case, during the CWS. All those drafted still gave their all in Omaha.

Expect Benintendi will, too.

Oh, he did wisely shirk one ritual last week when he was intentionally tardy when it came time to jump the pile of Hogs celebrating their super regional clincher.

"I paused a little bit because I know guys on the bottom can get squished, and I didn't want to do that," Benintendi said. "I was on top."

On top of the Hogs and on top of two worlds, college and pro.

Sports on 06/13/2015

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