Scott Springer with former Madeira standout Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox The Enquirer/Scott Springer
FORT MYERS, FL – One of the more notable members of the Madeira High School Class of 2013 will miss his five-year reunion this spring due to his day job.
Either in Boston or at some major league ballpark in America, Andrew Benintendi will be in the starting lineup for baseball’s Red Sox barring injury.
As his classmates sign loan payments, he signs autographs for those who wait hours on end to see a big leaguer scribble on a baseball.
“These guys are always out here,” Benintendi said at Jet Blue Park, Boston’s spring training home. “It’s easy to take a few minutes and sign for some fans. They’re out there supporting us all year, so it’s the least we can do.”
From Madeira to the (Green) Monster
Less than five years ago, Benintendi finished off his four-year career at Madeira by leading the Cincinnati Hills League and most other leagues in every offensive statistical category. He hit .562 in 30 games, slammed 12 homers, drove in 57 runs and swiped 38 bases. His cousin Zack Jansen had seven more at-bats and ripped two more doubles to take family bragging rights there.
From knocking balls over the right-field tennis courts at Sellman Field behind the middle school, Benintendi put in two years with the Arkansas Razorbacks. He left Fayetteville as a sophomore as the NCAA Dick Howser Player of the Year when his weight room boosted his college home run totals from one his freshman year to 19 as a sophomore. For 3.6 million reasons (signing bonus) he became a member of the Boston Red Sox after being drafted in round one in 2015.
“I think out of high school I was about 170,” Benintendi said. “Right now, I think I’m about 190. I’ve just been trying to put on weight. I’m working out, eating a lot, trying to keep it on.”
His minor league career (Lowell Spinners, Greenville Drive, Salem Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs) was just a tad over a year as he was promoted from AA Portland in early August 2016. By October, he had homered in his first postseason at-bat. Now a Red Sox fixture, he’s gone from Madeira Mustang to Beantown favorite.
Pump it up
While not yet Popeye, the 5-foot-10 outfielder’s forearms have developed enough that he poked a 374-foot spring training home run he claimed he was “out in front of” recently.
“I’ve been to the same place the last two off-seasons,” Benintendi said of his workout regimen. “I like the way they do stuff. I think that (home run) may have been a little wind-aided. I never really work on them (forearms). I guess it’s just a combination of all the lifts I do.”
Or, good genes.
Many a baseball parent will travel long and far and hand over good money for a professional hitting lesson. Andrew Benintendi looked no further than the law offices of Dinsmore & Shohl. His attorney father, Chris, once graced the ball orchards of the Georgetown G-Men and played college ball at Wittenberg. Mother Jill is in the Ripley High Athletic Hall of Fame.
“The only real hitting coach I’ve had since up here was my Dad,” Benintendi said. “If something goes wrong, I’ll get a text from him after the game and will see what he saw. He knows my swing second-best behind me. His input definitely matters.”
March reminds him of basketball
With March Madness here, Benintendi is following his favorite college team, the Xavier Musketeers. His cousin Michael Misleh is the Muskies manager who keeps him apprised of the latest results.
His aunt Kelly Benintendi Misleh played at Michigan and at Xavier and is actually one of the few who scored more points in high school than Andrew (2,319 to 1,753). As for Andrew, he averaged between 24-25 points per game his last two seasons and was Ohio Division III Player of the Year as a junior. Current Boston Celtics assistant and Butler and Moeller grad Alex Barlow recalls a junior high Benintendi firing in 11 three-pointers in a Crusader camp game.
“I knew baseball was probably my path, but I definitely enjoyed basketball. It was probably my favorite sport,” Benintendi said. “I don’t even remember the last time I shot. It was probably two off-seasons ago at Madeira.”
With the Mustangs making a postseason run this month, the sharpshooting, hard-hitting lefty has kept tabs via his parents. Younger sister, Olivia Benintendi, was a reliable scorer for the Amazons and youngest sister, Lilly, appears at the Loannes Drive school next fall.
Andrew is still Andrew. He shrugs off monumental accomplishments like being a two-sports four-year starter at Madeira, playing for a state title as a sophomore and making the 18U Midland Redskins as a 15 year old. His new agent is working on endorsements, but for now, he uses Wilson gloves, Chandler bats and doesn’t quite get the fascination Boston and young ladies have had with his hair.
An off-season trim of his previous “flow” caused a Twitter uproar in the Northeast United States.
“It’s crazy, ever since I first got called up in ’16, I guess people have liked my hair,” Benintendi said grinning. “It’s kind of weird. I cut it in the off-season. I’ll probably keep it short this season.”
Former Sycamore and University of Cincinnati star Kevin Youkilis also hit the big-time with the Red Sox. Now a Bearcat Hall of Famer, the “Greek God of Walks” has recalled being like one of the Beatles in Boston. However, in Cincinnati, he could seemingly disappear into the crowd.
Likewise, Andrew Benintendi doesn’t chase the limelight and still favors a Chic-fil-A drive-thru for breakfast just as he did during his temporary minor league stays. During brief returns to Cincinnati, sightings of No. 16 are few and often reserved for family and friends.
“I don’t get out too much when I go back,” Benintendi said. “I like to stay at home and just relax. I don’t think I’m on Kevin Youkilis’ level yet.”
While not as highly-decorated as “Youk,” Benintendi has a bit of a head start having made The Show in 2016 at age 22. Youkilis wasn’t called up until age 25 before having a 10-year major league career.
Madeira’s finest already has a substantial lead in the hair department.