Andrew Benintendi has never been to Fenway Park. It’s now the carrot on the end of the stick.
The Boston Red Sox drafted Benintendi with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. The University of Arkansas outfielder likely won’t reach the majors for a few years even if he forgoes his junior season to sign with the Red Sox, but he sure sounds ready to embark on a professional journey with one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.
“Obviously, it’s a great organization and they’ve got a great history,” Benintendi said Monday during a conference call. “Growing up, I was a big Red Sox fan and looked up to guys like Dustin Pedroia, who’s obviously not the biggest guy, but the way he competes, the way he works, it was motivating for me.
“Being picked, it was extremely exciting.”
Benintendi, who turns 21 in July, made a huge leap in his sophomore season after a so-so freshman campaign. He hit .380 (84-for-221) with 19 home runs, 55 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and a .489 on-base percentage in 63 games for the Razorbacks en route to being named the SEC Player of the Year.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound outfielder soared up draft boards as a result of his collegiate success, to the point where the Red Sox felt comfortable drafting him at No. 7 despite his status as a sophomore.
“We have a history with Andrew going back to high school and our scouts have really done an outstanding job just kind of recognizing his ability at an early age,” Red Sox director of amateur scouting Mike Rikard said. “Coming into this year, it started to become more and more evident really as Andrew started to perform very, very well that he could at least work his way into contention where we were considering (at No. 7).
“I think a lot of that was Andrew. Andrew really earned that by really just making people take notice and performing as well as he did.”
Benintendi said Monday he gained 15 pounds before his sophomore season, which helped contribute to his significant uptick in power. He’s unsure how exactly his swing will translate to Fenway, largely because he’s never stepped foot on the historic field, but he already can envision how it might play out.
“Obviously, I’ve seen it on TV several times. It’s a very unique ballpark and I’m definitely excited to go check it out,” Benintendi said. “But how would it play for me? From what I know, it’s a pretty big outfield. Playing out there would be great, covering a lot of ground. Obviously hitting balls to the gaps out there and running for a while on the base paths would be great. Hopefully I can do that.”
Benintendi still has unfinished business in the College World Series. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington encouraged him to take advantage of the unique opportunity. It’s clear the Cincinnati native also is eyeing the next step, though. An interesting road awaits, assuming he signs with the Red Sox.
“I’ve put a lot of hard work in to this point. It’s starting to pay off,” Benintendi said. “I definitely have a lot more work to do, but I’m extremely excited and it’s going to be exciting to start.”
The carrot is dangling. Benintendi intends to reach for it.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@RedSox