PB’s Pro Log

PB’s Pro Log: Part I

By: Paul Bennett, June 2006

DP: Some of you may remember the article Paul Bennett wrote this spring for Diamond Prospects entitled "What my future holds." Many of our readers enjoyed that piece and have since enquired how Bennett fared in the draft, if his dream did come true. As is turns out, both days of the draft passed without his name being called…but a week later his phone did ring from a Major League club. Two days later he signed with the Atlanta Braves as a utility player. He has agreed to keep a journal throughout this year for DP to chronicle the ups and downs of life in professional baseball. Today, we begin with Part I…

June 12

Today had to have been one of the greatest/strangest days of my life. After driving through the night to the Outer Banks for a camping trip with two Elon teammates and sitting on the beach for about three hours, I got a phone call that every college baseball player dreams of. We had just finished grilling dinner when I got a call from Billy Best (scout for the Atlanta Braves) asking me if I wanted to sign with the Braves. I was so stunned I barely got out that the answer was an emphatic "yes." He said that if I could get back home by the next day, they wanted to sign me. Not wanting to end the camping trip for the other guys, I immediately called my dad to tell him the news and see if he could come get me. He left Charlotte at about 8 p.m. and got to our campsite about 3 a.m; we got up three hours later and drove to Raleigh to meet Mr. Best. I signed my pro contract over a late breakfast and headed home to pack for Orlando where mini-camp was just about to start for me and just about to end for everyone else.

June 14

After traveling all day yesterday, I woke up this morning just before 7:00 a.m. to catch a quick breakfast and head to the field. It was my first time at the Wide World of Sports complex and I was definitely impressed. I was even more excited when I learned that we would be in the big league clubhouse!

After getting gear from the equipment manager (brand new glove, practice shirt and shorts, bats, new cleats, etc.) I was ready for my first workout in professional baseball. It went about as one would imagine: stretch, throw, groundballs, live BP off pitchers, regular BP and conditioning.

A lot of tools stood out, as I expected they would-strong arms, great hands and big power could be seen all over practice. I was having a blast and hardly noticed the Florida heat or that four hours had passed. We grabbed our gear and headed back to the clubhouse where the cook had lunch made for everyone. A lot of guys got treatment but my mental allergy to training rooms forced me to steer clear of that area. We grabbed showers and headed back to the hotel. At this point in the summer, workouts finish about 12:30 so afternoons are spent playing golf, hanging out at the pool or napping (the most popular choice).

Like always, ballplayers are the same everywhere so it hasn’t been hard getting to know everyone. I’m constantly amazed at how consistently my network of friends and teammates overlap with other guys. I played against one guy in the Coastal Plains League, another guy in high school and several of the guys from Georgia know my teammates at Elon.

There are basically two teams here, guys headed to Danville and those staying in Orlando for the GCL Braves. Being in the big league clubhouse and playing at the Disney complex, I almost don’t want to leave-but the guys have informed me that the Gulf Coast League team practices every morning and plays every afternoon and that seems to make for a very long summer. I’d have gladly gone anywhere but Danville seems to be a place guys like to go. We head out Saturday so I’ll be in Danville by Sunday-just soaking all of this in and loving life.

June 19

I arrived in Danville yesterday, checked into the motel, and had an evening practice. By this time, all the guys have pretty much gotten to know each other and we’re all starting to settle in. We had an afternoon practice and then showered and changed for a "Meet the Braves" banquet in town. We all sat at a long head table, had a great meal and then (what felt like) the entire town lined up for us to sign bats, balls, hats and pictures for over an hour. It was a really cool experience, I had signed autographs in the Coastal Plains League for several years but never like this. You can tell people know they might be getting autographs of future big leaguers so it’s as exciting for them as it is for us. Guys like Jeff Franceour have come through Danville on their way to the "Bigs" and I’m sure all those people were there when he was signing autographs.

The park is great, way better than what I expected. It’s right near the river and has a nice covered grandstand with seatback chairs and a great playing surface. The clubhouse is spacious and has just about everything we need-seems like it will be my home away from home for the next few months. One more day of practice and then myself (and several other teammates) will have our first game as professionals.

June 21

Today was our first game and we played well and won. I didn’t get in the lineup tonight but that’s to be expected; I knew coming up here that I’d be initially a backup. It was interesting to watch an entire game from the dugout. After playing in every single college game of my career but one, I definitely was not used to the dugout perspective. It’s somewhat like being a coach, things happen on the field and you’re powerless to help beyond a pound as guys come off the field.

So now it’s a waiting game, just waiting for my chance to get in there and show I belong. I’m excited to get out there, the atmosphere is great and the game doesn’t look too much different from a college one. Everything happens a touch faster but the wood bats slow things down a bit. Some of the guys here look like they would be downright dangerous with metal bats and it’s fun to watch- especially in BP! If I wasn’t comfortable with myself as a player, I’d almost be embarrassed at the way my backside line-drives compare to towering shots some of these guys hit.

After a few practices and a game I’m starting to think I may be one of the faster guys on the team-hopefully that will translate into some opportunities to run for guys late in games and contribute to the team until I break into the lineup. Overall, the experience continues to be great and I’m having a blast.

To view "What my future holds," click here.