Jason Benetti on calling Sox games: ‘I could do this forever’
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — All of this is still kind of soaking in for Jason Benetti, who is standing outside the White Sox’ spring-training complex on a sunny, 71-degree morning in March.
Birds are chirping, players are walking by in their spikes on the concrete and Benetti is getting ready to call a baseball game for the team he grew up cheering on.
Benetti, 33, was the kid who wrote an elementary-school paper about his desire to be the Sox’ announcer. His childhood experiences weren’t like most of ours because he was confined to a wheelchair for a spell because of cerebral palsy. As a young Sox fan, he cheered on Frank Thomas and shouted out Ken ‘‘Hawk’’ Harrelson’s catchphrases.
Today, as he prepares to call Sox home games for a second full season, a dream job for him — shoot, a dream job for thousands, probably — Benetti still can’t get over the reality he’s actually doing this for a living.
‘‘I run into people in other cities, and they want to talk Sox,’’ Benetti said. ‘‘And it’s crazy I’m the one they want to talk Sox with. I wouldn’t give this up for anything. It’s weird to say it, but I could do this forever. Yeah, I could.’’
Benetti’s broadcast partner, Steve Stone, predicts stardom for Benetti. Stone also works next to Harrelson, who is doing mostly road games now, and said he enjoys the diverse broadcasts.
‘‘Hawk has given long and meritorious service to the White Sox,’’ Stone said, calling Harrelson the face of the franchise. ‘‘On the other side of the page, you have a guy who is special. I’m not just talking talent.
‘‘You can’t teach a sense of humor, and he has a very good one. You have to entertain the fans. That’s one thing younger broadcasters have a hard time with, but Jason doesn’t. He understands we’re baseball broadcasters and we’re in the entertainment business.’’
Benetti is a trailblazer of sorts, doing his thing after overcoming significant obstacles. He was born 10 weeks premature, but he is through the worst of the hurdles that came with cerebral palsy.
Stone said Benetti is an inspiration.
‘‘If I can help somebody do something tomorrow they couldn’t do today, that’s what I want to do,’’ Benetti said.
A tireless worker, Benetti is a big preparation guy who admits getting lost surfing through the Baseball Reference website, a treasure trove of facts, statistics and information.
‘‘You could lose a family in there,’’ he said.
But Benetti isn’t all fun and games on the air. He listens to recordings of his broadcasts to make himself better.
‘‘Rarely do I ever say, ‘That’s OK,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve listened to myself, and I say, ‘Where was I vocally there?’ ‘Why did I make that choice?’ ‘Why didn’t I pause?’ That sort of thing.
‘‘I try to hit those moments right after game because I like to remember what I was thinking at the time. Was I looking at my computer or talking to Steve and got sidetracked? Why did I tell that story when it didn’t fit? What was the psychological reason? Was I on autopilot? Sometimes you say stupid things.’’
Most times, Benetti doesn’t. He is good at what he does now and only figures to get better as he enters his second season.
Brooks Boyer, the Sox’ vice president for marketing and sales, said feedback on Benetti’s first season was ‘‘solidly positive.’’
‘‘He has been received very well by our fans,’’ Boyer said.
‘‘There is nothing that is going to stand in his way because he wants to — he’s willing to — put in the time and he has astonishing talent,’’ Stone said. ‘‘We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg as far as the talent of Jason Benetti.’’
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.