- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Bennett ponders possible end of his career
Sep 29, 2012 12:00 am
By DAVID DRIVER
LANCASTER, Pa. – The first round of the Atlantic League playoffs began here Sept. 26 when the Lancaster Barnstormers hosted the rival York (Pa.) Revolution.
And for Lebanon resident Jeff Bennett, 32, a native of Donelson and a Gordonsville High School graduate, this post-season could be the swan song in a pro baseball career that began in 1998 when he drafted in the 19th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Where I go from here, I don’t know. I am pretty much relying on Him on what is to come next,” said Bennett, a committed Christian. “I am going to have to make that choice in the next couple of weeks.”
His wife and three daughters spent much of the summer with him in southeast Pennsylvania but returned to Tennessee for the start of the school year a few weeks ago. He and his wife are expecting their fourth child in March.
Bennett has been trying to find a spot to play winter baseball and has looked into spots in Mexico or Puerto Rico. But nothing had turned up as of Sept. 26 and he said most rosters are set at this time of the year.
“I need to pay the bills,” he said, standing outside of the Lancaster clubhouse as fans walked by about one hour before Game One of the playoffs.
Bennett had a tryout with the Boston Red Sox in Florida in February. He threw well, with 14 strikes in 16 pitches against opposing hitters, but he guesses that Boston may have been unsure of the new arm angle that he came up with after the 2011 season.
Unable to sign on with a big league organization, Bennett joined Lancaster, a member of the independent Atlantic League for this season. The Barnstormers were 88-52 and had the best record in the league in regular-season play.
During the season Bennett was 4-7 with an ERA of 3.52 with two saves out of the bullpen. In 46 innings he allowed 46 hits and 15 walks with 26 strikeouts and had seven holds with four blown saves.
“It was a crazy year with the arm angle change,” said Bennett, who dropped down on his release point but throws a fastball in the mid-90s. “This second half has been better than the first half, in my opinion. I got in a better rhythm. I felt pretty good with my arm slot. I have just been blessed. I can’t complain about this season.”
Lancaster beat York, 10-4, here Sept. 26 in the first game of the best-of-five series. Game two was slated for here Thursday with the series switching to York on Sept. 28. The winner will play the survivor of the Southern Maryland vs. Long Island series in the Atlantic League championship series that will begin Oct. 2. Long Island won Game One of its series in Southern Maryland on Sept. 26.
Bennett did not pitch in Game One against York. He has been used as a setup guy in the bullpen by Lancaster manager Butch Hobson, a former third baseman and manager for the Boston Red Sox who played college football for legendary coach Bear Bryant at Alabama.
Bennett made his big league debut with Milwaukee in 2004 and pitched for Atlanta from 2007-09 and with Tampa Bay in 2009. He was 8-17 with an ERA of 4.30 in 179 big league games, with six starts and three saves, all with Atlanta in 2008.
He looked into playing overseas at one point this season, perhaps in Japan, but nothing panned out.
“I am looking forward to the playoffs. We have a great team. We are fortunate to be in this situation,” Bennett said. “It is an adrenaline rush the whole time, from start to finish. If you stay here this long you want to win it. There is no point in going out there and not winning it.”
Even if that happens for Lancaster, which plays in a modern ballpark that is at the level of Triple A stadiums, Bennett still knows he may have put on a baseball uniform for a pro team for the last time.
“It is a crazy way to see it but I feel God has me here for a reason,” he said.
Editor’s note: David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland and can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com