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KC Cougars

New manager Benjamin expects bustle with Cougars

Mike Benjamin heard “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during more than 800 seventh-inning stretches over his 13-season career as a major league infielder.

Apparently, one lyric resonated more than most:

“Take me out with the crowd.”

Anticipating his first season as manager of the Class-A Cougars, a promotion the parent Arizona Diamondbacks announced Tuesday, Benjamin expressed special excitement over the prospect of playing before a much bigger fan base.

Honoring their 25th anniversary in 2015, the Cougars became the first Class-A club to attract 11 million fans, a far more formidable support system than what Benjamin experienced while managing Arizona’s Rookie League affiliate AZL D’backs last season.

“Last year in the AZL, we played in front of some parents and some girlfriends and that’s about it,” Benjamin said. “It’ll be a lot more upbeat crowd. That’ll be fun.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things. Hopefully, we don’t disappoint.”

Benjamin managed the AZL D’backs to a 25-30 record last season. He was an assistant coach at Arizona State, his alma mater, from 2010 to 2014. The 17th manager in Cougars history, Benjamin played the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates (311 games) and San Francisco Giants (299), while also spending time with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. Now 50, he played his final major league game at the end of the 2002 season and finished with a .229 career batting average.

Although the Rookie League campaign spans just 55 games – less than half of the 140 the Cougars play in the Midwest League – Benjamin’s players wasted little time picking his brain about his time in “The Show.”

“We were fortunate,” Benjamin said. “We had a good group of kids that wanted information between me and Jacob Cruz – he was my hitting coach; he had big league experience. We couldn’t keep them from working extra. ‘What’s it going to take? How’s it going to be to just keep moving up?’ ”

Benjamin lives in Queen Creek, Arizona, during the offseason. He did not play in the Midwest League as a minor leaguer.

Note: Benjamin’s predecessor as Cougars manager, Mark Grudzielanek, received zero votes Wednesday in his first year on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. An infielder for six teams over 15 seasons, Grudzielanek no longer will appear on the ballot because he fell short of 5 percent of the vote, the required threshold to remain eligible.

Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. appeared on a record 437 of 440 ballots and was elected alongside catcher Mike Piazza.

Mike Benjamin heard “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during more than 800 seventh-inning stretches over his 13-season career as a major league infielder.

Apparently, one lyric resonated more than most:

“Take me out with the crowd.”

Anticipating his first season as manager of the Class-A Cougars, a promotion the parent Arizona Diamondbacks announced Tuesday, Benjamin expressed special excitement over the prospect of playing before a much bigger fan base.

Honoring their 25th anniversary in 2015, the Cougars became the first Class-A club to attract 11 million fans, a far more formidable support system than what Benjamin experienced while managing Arizona’s Rookie League affiliate AZL D’backs last season.

“Last year in the AZL, we played in front of some parents and some girlfriends and that’s about it,” Benjamin said. “It’ll be a lot more upbeat crowd. That’ll be fun.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things. Hopefully, we don’t disappoint.”

Benjamin managed the AZL D’backs to a 25-30 record last season. He was an assistant coach at Arizona State, his alma mater, from 2010 to 2014. The 17th manager in Cougars history, Benjamin played the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates (311 games) and San Francisco Giants (299), while also spending time with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. Now 50, he played his final major league game at the end of the 2002 season and finished with a .229 career batting average.

Although the Rookie League campaign spans just 55 games – less than half of the 140 the Cougars play in the Midwest League – Benjamin’s players wasted little time picking his brain about his time in “The Show.”

“We were fortunate,” Benjamin said. “We had a good group of kids that wanted information between me and Jacob Cruz – he was my hitting coach; he had big league experience. We couldn’t keep them from working extra. ‘What’s it going to take? How’s it going to be to just keep moving up?’ ”

Benjamin lives in Queen Creek, Arizona, during the offseason. He did not play in the Midwest League as a minor leaguer.

Note: Benjamin’s predecessor as Cougars manager, Mark Grudzielanek, received zero votes Wednesday in his first year on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. An infielder for six teams over 15 seasons, Grudzielanek no longer will appear on the ballot because he fell short of 5 percent of the vote, the required threshold to remain eligible.

Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. appeared on a record 437 of 440 ballots and was elected alongside catcher Mike Piazza.

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