Jason Benetti always wanted to be a White Sox announcer. The proof is in a letter he wrote for a class assignment in elementary school.
Now 35, Benetti has become one of Chicago’s most recognizable sports voices.
Benetti, who grew up a Sox fan in south suburban Homewood, spends his summers sitting next to color analyst Steve Stone in the broadcast booth.
When baseball season ends, Benetti doesn’t stop. He transitions to being a play-by-play announcer on ESPN for college football and basketball games. He also does select NFL games for ESPN Radio in the fall.
Benetti spends more than half the year on the road. He said he was away for more than 190 games last year.
‘‘I know airports like the back of my hand,’’ he said.
And though Benetti’s résumé is the equal of men twice his age, he wants more.
Benetti shared his career goals, worst travel story and more with the Chat Room. He also gave a shout-out to comedian John Mulaney.
(This conversation was edited for length and clarity.)
You’re on the road more than you’re home. What’s your craziest travel story?
Jason Benetti: “We had a high school football game for ESPN in Mississippi. So after the game, my spotter and I drove 4œ hours to Atlanta. We each threw our bags in our airport hotel room and slept for 90 minutes, then had to get on a plane to go do radio for Stanford-USC on Saturday, the next day. And I actually left my driver’s license in my rental car in the Atlanta airport, and I realized it as we were going through security.
‘‘I basically begged my way through security. I took everything out of my wallet and was like, ‘Starbucks gift card, do you take that?’ So I called my high school buddy, who was the spotter, when I was in the line, and I was like, ‘Will you just sit on the jetway and cry a little and stop the flight from going?’
‘‘We ended up making it, but it was one of the dumbest things I’ve done.’’
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
JB: [Ten-second pause.] ‘‘That’s hard.’’ [Eight-second pause.] ‘‘There are so many things.’’ [Several moments later.] ‘‘Here’s one that goes along with travel: People who stop in the middle of the hallway at the airport and look at their phones. We’re all trying to catch planes. Go anywhere, don’t just stop, please.’’
I hate that. How do you feel about people on the back of the plane who get up and step into the aisle before it’s their turn?
JB: ‘‘We have a process for that on earth, and I think they should stick to that. There’s a reason we all go in order. It’s kind of like the people who stay in the lane that’s closing as long as possible and then merge really late. We have ways of doing that people should follow. I’m kind of boiling as you say that.’’
At 35, you’ve already accomplished a lot in your career. What’s next?
JB: ‘‘A couple of things, I think. Having this type of platform, using it to do something special community-wise or for others, is very high on the list.
‘‘Also as noble, meeting the comedian John Mulaney. He’s from Chicago, and I think his delivery is amazing. He’s truly fantastic at what he does. I mentioned him the other day in the telecast in the fleeting hope that he would then fly to Kansas City and say, ‘Oh, that was so nice of you!’ ’’
Maybe he’ll read this and feel compelled to meet you.
JB: ‘‘You never know. I’m just going to name-drop him every time I do an interview until he finally says, ‘I will come to a White Sox game, and we’ll hang out.’
‘‘And I would like to do the spelling bee once. I think that would be very fun.’’
Are you a good speller?
JB: ‘‘I guess I wasn’t terrible when I was a kid, but I was bad at spelling bees. I misspelled ‘amendment.’ That was the one I remember, and that was two years ago.’’
JB: ‘‘No, I’m just kidding.’’
How exciting has it been for you to watch the White Sox’ progress this season?
JB: ‘‘They’re really a fun team to watch. They love the game, they love playing the game, they love hanging out with each other. There is such substantial individual progress. Tim Anderson has become star-caliber. Yoan Moncada has changed substantially; you’re seeing the power start to flourish. Eloy Jimenez’s power is so easy. . . . It just looks like it comes so easily for him.
‘‘But for me, A1 is Lucas Giolito. . . . If you have someone struggling with anything, tell them about Lucas Giolito. He’s got this amazing talent, gets traded, has the worst season you could imagine last year, and he said: ‘Forget it. I’m going to go fix this, fix everything.’ And he did. Good for him. It’s awesome. I would want my kid to be like that when he or she faces a challenge.’’