CLEVELAND: Indians first-round pick Will Benson - who was at Progressive Field with his parents for the first time on Friday - didn't turn 18 until this week, making him about as young as a high draft selection can be.
CLEVELAND: Indians first-round pick Will Benson — who was at Progressive Field with his parents for the first time on Friday — didn’t turn 18 until this week, making him about as young as a high draft selection can be.
And when he met with reporters, he already sported an Indians hat and shirt. He also had, of course, Mickey Mouse socks.
“That’s just me,” Benson said, smiling as he did all Friday while meeting with players and staff members on the field. “I’m different. I just like being out there. I liked Mickey Mouse as a kid. … You’ll be seeing me doing a lot of funky fashion trends. Hopefully, I’ll be a trendsetter.”
Benson, selected by the Indians with the No. 14 overall pick earlier this month, on Friday signed a contract with the team with a reported bonus of $2.5 million. He has already shown maturity beyond his years, even with the goofy socks. The night he was drafted he mostly talked about how he wanted to do charity work outside of the game. Part of his “mission” in the game, as he put it, is to help revive baseball as the No. 1 sport, particularly for inner-city kids who might not have access to proper equipment.
He spoke to that again Friday, elaborating that he’d like to put some of his signing bonus toward eventually having a facility that can act as a pickup baseball field with equipment provided.
“It’s a sad sight because it’s hard to afford a $400 dollar bat when you only have to spend $20 on a basketball and $15 on a football,” he said. “I think when kids are given the necessary equipment, that’s when baseball will become a joy and that’s how baseball can become the No. 1 sport again. Pickup baseball isn’t really a thing right now but hopefully with the facility I want to create, we will have a place kids can just go in.”
And what else will he do with the $2.5 million bonus? His plans include still getting a degree — he was recruited by Duke — in finance. They don’t include upgrading his 2001 Ford Explorer.
“No cars,” he said. “I got a Ford Explorer back home. It works. It gets me from point A to point B. I’ll take that. … We talked about donating to my school. Of course going to tithe with my church. Also putting money toward the facility I want to create.”
Benson added he’ll be giving back to his parents, who were in the room at the time, “whether they like it or not.”
He’s been an adult for all of a few days but has shown more maturity than many twice his age. He does look the part, though, at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds.
The Indians were impressed with him early on in the scouting process as they tracked about 165 of his at-bats at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. Then, in a workout with the Indians, a minor change left Benson belting home run after home run.
“The amazing thing was Will felt it right away, was able to make the change right away,” said Brad Grant, the Indians director of amateur scouting. “Balls were going 450 feet away and going up over trees. I hadn’t ever seen anything like that before.”
Benson, an outfielder, hit .454 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 41 RBI and had 11 stolen bases last season in high school. He’s drawn comparisons to Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward.
But he’d still like to become “smoother” at the plate. He admitted that, with the popular adage that “chicks dig the long ball,” he might have been trying to do a little too much at the plate, perhaps trying to be too impressive.
And the name he has in mind is familiar to Indians fans, although for not the best reasons.
“I think in terms of an offensive player I like to look up to and admire a lot is [the Detroit Tigers’] Miguel Cabrera,” Benson said. “He’s a smooth killer, man. A smooth assassin. I’d like to be that one day — maybe even better. That’s a tough task, tough words. But I’m going to put in the work necessary to do so.”
For now, he’s just the big, strong kid with the Mickey Mouse socks.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at https:// www.facebook.com/RyanLewisABJ.
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