GLENDALE, Ariz. — New White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti is not unlike the ballplayer who’s had his fill of spring training and is ready to get on with the real deal. He wants to get behind a microphone and start doing his thing.
Benetti, a born and raised south suburbanite who grew up rooting for the Sox, listening to Ken Harrelson call games on TV, is about to begin his dream job of doing TV play-by-play. In Harrelson’s seat, no less.
Benetti’s ready to get it on, and he’ll tune up with the first of 10 games alongside Steve Stone on Saturday when the Sox play the Cubs at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz.
“Now it’s ‘Let’s go! Let’s play,’ ‘’ Benetti said Thursday before watching the Sox work out at Camelback Ranch.
Benetti, 33, who will work home Sox home games during the regular season as Harrelson, 74, cuts his work load in half, has done his scouting on the backfields, devoured all the information he can process and met almost everyone and anyone associated with the Sox since getting hired in January.
He’s ready to get his game on alongside Stone, who will also be in the booth for all 10 Cactus League games while Harrelson charges his battery for the regular season.
“That’s not to say I don’t want more time to prepare,’’ Benetti said. “Let’s go see what we do as a crew. Because you can think you know how things are going to go but the magic and awesomeness of live TV, especially with Steve, is we can go 16 different directions. And what happens in that moment is going to happen. So I just want to go play right now.’’
You get the feeling that Benetti will win over his audience. He’s young, has a quick wit, is informed and is fun to be around. Born with a mild form of cerebral palsy, Benetti is a trail blazer of sorts as well, believed to be the only broadcaster of a major sports team with that disability.
He and Stone, over dinner more than once, have already hit it off.
“My feeling is that it could go a number of different ways on those nights when it’s 10-1,’’ Benetti said. “My favorite thing about Steve is the conversation is all over the place – it’s baseball some, politics some, other sports some, any number of things. So my comfort level with asking him anything or taking him down any path or him taking me down any path is very, very high. And to me that’s a great indicator of how it’s going to go.
“The fun part is our minds can unravel or re-ravel, whatever it is, during a game and reload and have this or that conversation. Plus he’s like the baseball oracle sitting next to me. He knows what’s coming always. I don’t know how he does it but I’m very interested finding out how he knows.’’
Stone, who has a home in Arizona and has been in and out of camp, has already warmed up to Benetti.
“The viewers will see a phenomenal passion for the game,” Stone said. “He has the ability to broadcast anything but I think his number one passion is baseball.”
Stone, like his new part-time partner, is happy to have 10 warmups before the regular season. Benetti especially likes having five straight days of games from March 18-22.
“That gets me in the rhythm of what Steve is like,’’ Benetti said.
The impact on a baseball team’s voice on its brand and entertainment quotient isn’t lost on Benetti.
“Here’s how I know,’’ he said. “When I was a kid I was walking around Churchill School [in Homewood] saying, ‘You can put it on the board!’ I went to a lot of games but my Sox memories in a lot of ways are Hawk memories – picks to click, ‘Little Hurt’ Craig Grebeck, One Dog. That’s what I grew up with. It’s a daunting challenge to change the baseball dictionary like Hawk has because no one has done it more than he has, in any market anywhere.
“That’s not my game, I’m going to do it the way I know how to do it and that’s what Hawk said to me [be yourself]. Yeah, that’s how close to my heart the understanding of what the TV broadcast means to the team because I lived the team through that.’’