Sure, Rick Hahn and Ricky Renteria were greeted to rousing applause in the first seminar at SoxFest’s second day, with the buzz of an ascending rebuild in the air.
But Jason Benetti?
Fans lined the two microphones to ask about topics such as Jordan Stephens, the future limelight and even the organization’s core values during the trio’s session. Nothing about that stage time was any different than expected.
The universal esteem to which fans hold Benetti was, however. And that was made even more evident by what some said to the young announcer after the session.
“Jason, we love what you’re doing,” one fan said.
“We really enjoy your broadcasts; keep it up,” said another.
Taking over for Hawk Harrelson is a tough act to follow. And while the Hawk has made increasingly silly comments during broadcasts—“... I’ve ever seen” will be lodged in our brains forever—he will always be loved on the South Side.
But fans have warmly accepted Benetti’s voice into their living rooms.
Benetti is intelligent, quirky and willing to sit within five feet of color man Steve Stone. And his sense of fun and wonder made him the perfect man to host the kids-only press conference at SoxFest—where Yolmer Sanchez performed a magic trick on him.
Benetti also played Nicky Delmonico in a virtual reality home run derby competition—and won. I’m giving Delmonico 10 at-bats to start the season before Benetti takes a victory lap at the young left fielder’s expense.
Benetti’s engaging personality and youthful exuberance fits well with the rebuild. He enjoys focusing on players at both the minor league and major league levels in order to help fans better connect with them. After all, Benetti is as eager to see them perform in Chicago as fans are.
And the young broadcaster doesn’t just focus on the blue-chippers’ statistics during the games.
During one game broadcast last year, Benetti showed a Twitter video of Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada bonding while eating food from their native country, Cuba, for a pregame meal.
He discussed Tim Anderson’s personal struggles following the death of his best friend, Branden Moss, and how it affected his on-field play.
And off the field, on a lighter note, Benetti’s video game challenges—taking on all comers from Chicago’s young corps—are the stuff of legend.
All of this gives fans a personal look at these players who hope to bring multiple championships to the South Side.
Benetti’s contemporary baseball intelligence has also introduced different ways for fans to enjoy the game. While the Hawk’s foray into advanced metrics began and ended with TWTW (The Will to Win), Benetti freely lobs out terms like “exit velocity,” “launch angle” and “spin rate,” allowing fans to see how the game is changing before their eyes, and for the better.
Viewers now come away from White Sox games with a better understanding of today’s baseball, instead of reliving Carl Yastrzemski’s slash lines from 1967 in their sleep.
Fans had a good time at SoxFest with both Hawk and Benetti, but they already have bought in to the play-by-play man’s engaging personality and broadcasting abilities.
Mike Gasick (Danks for Nothin) covers the ever-powerful Illinois football team for The Daily Illini and thinks Bon Jovi doesn’t deserve an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.