Let’s play “Sox Math.”
Or, more accurately, Jason Benetti Math.
Start with the number of games Benetti will call for the White Sox this season as their TV play-by-play voice.
Add the number of games of any kind his ESPN contract mandates he broadcast this year, mainly college basketball and football.
And add the number of NFL games he’ll call for ESPN Radio in the fall.
Here’s what you get: 161 + 55 + 8 = 224 game broadcasts in 2019.
For now, he’s down one Sox game because Fox took the July 6 game against the Cubs, and the eight NFL games are an estimate based on the number he called last season. But you get the point.
The man works.
But why so much?
“If you told 15-year-old Jason Benetti you could be doing the White Sox and working for ESPN and all of that, he would say, ‘Inject it into me, and I want to do it forever,’ ” said Benetti, who grew up a Sox fan in south suburban Homewood.
His desire is obvious by the schedule he keeps. Take last week, for example. On Tuesday, he called the Purdue-Indiana basketball game in Bloomington. He flew from Indianapolis to Minneapolis on Wednesday and called Michigan-Minnesota on Thursday.
On Friday, he was in Orlando, Florida, to call Bulls-Magic in place of Neil Funk. He flew out at 6 a.m. Saturday to make the Ohio State-Maryland game at 2 p.m. Then he flew out at 6 p.m. to head to Sox spring training. He arrived in Phoenix around midnight.
“I do it because I never imagined that it would happen,” said Benetti, who was back home Thursday to call the Minnesota-Northwestern game in Evanston. “The probability of doing this at a high level is just so low because so many people want to do it. When you know you love something and you love being around it and they let you do it a lot, you want it.”
Benetti called NCAA Tournament games on radio for Westwood One the last two years, but the timing doesn’t work out this year. So his attention will turn solely to the Sox in the middle of March. His first of six spring-training games is March 15 on WGN with analyst Steve Stone.
It will mark the beginning of his fourth season with the Sox but first as a full-timer after Hawk Harrelson’s retirement last year. But Benetti said last season felt like a full season because he called a bulk of the games and he traveled with the team for the first time.
“It’s really different when you get to travel because you get to be around the players so much more and you get to know them better and they get to know you and there’s a trust factor,” Benetti said. “Some people see it as the start of whatever this era is, but for me, it’s an extension of last year. It’s a matter of keeping the momentum rolling in terms of the broadcast and let’s just have fun with the game every day. That’s the goal anyway.”
Fans might notice a new element to the broadcast this season. Inspired by college basketball partner Dan Dakich, Benetti wants to go deeper into the game, not just with information but with players.
“[Dakich’s] ability to pinpoint specifics in games, his ability to magnify the small motions on the court have gotten me excited,” said Benetti, who devised the popular “Sox Math” concept. “I know we do bits on the telecast and there are fun games that we play, but I’m also very excited to take the specific details of the game and have Stoney show us them and look in the dugout and see players’ reactions.
“Basketball, especially with Dan Dakich, teaches you very quickly how to read people’s facial expression because you’re so close to the court and you see the anguish and strain and enjoyment of playing sports. It’s made me want to do that even more in baseball and for everybody to get to know our players and what makes them tick and see what they’re experiencing.”
The timing is appropriate with a bunch of new faces on the team and promising prospects set to join them. And with the Sox hoping for more meaningful games, there could be a lot more situations for Benetti and Stone to delve into.
However the season unfolds, the fans’ viewing experience is of the utmost importance to Benetti.
“The goal is to always enrich, enjoy, educate, have a grand time and make you think about things you wouldn’t have thought of,” he said. “Life sucks sometimes, and to get to have fun with some people who love the game of baseball, which Stoney and I both do, our hope is that you leave with more of a smile on your face than when you came in.”
Sox spring webcasts
Until Benetti is back in the booth, fans can watch select Sox spring-training games via webcast at whitesox.com. Russ Langer will be back on the call with longtime Chicago sportscaster Rich King. Langer, who’s entering his 20th season calling games for Class AAA Las Vegas, arrived at camp late after the birth of a child. Curt Bloom, who broadcasts for the Sox’ Class AA affiliate in Birmingham, filled in to start the spring. The next webcast is at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Melton stepping back
Bill Melton will reduce his appearances as NBC Sports Chicago’s analyst for Sox pre- and postgame shows. Melton will continue as a team ambassador. NBCSCH will finalize its coverage team for the season in a few weeks.