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KC Cougars

Weekend Chit-chat with Cougars manager Mike Benjamin

New Cougars manager Mike Benjamin spends his offseasons in Queen Creek, Arizona, but is eager to make Fifth Third Bank Ballpark one of his summer homes. Benjamin did quite well against the Cubs as a major league infielder for four teams over parts of 13 seasons and reveres the Chicago area. Now entering his second season with the parent Arizona Diamondbacks organization, Benjamin, 50, discussed his expected transition from managing Rookie League ball in 2015. Here’s an edited transcript of his conversation with Kane County Chronicle sports editor Kevin Druley in the latest installment of the Weekend Chit-chat:

Were you anticipating (D’backs farm director) Mike Bell might make this move? How did it strike you?

Mike just likes to move guys around, give them different experiences. … To me, it doesn’t matter. I actually like the younger levels. Being a full-season (league) will be a little different, but it’s baseball, and they’re still pretty young.

Why the leaning toward younger levels?

I think you can actually give them a little bit more. They’re not so far along in their career and set in their ways. They’re open for a little bit more coaching.

What happened when you were part of the staff let go at Arizona State (after the 2014 season)?

I just started making phone calls and sending out emails. ... To his credit, [Bell] was one of the few guys that actually called. I finally got replies from a couple of people, and he was one of them.

You managed a 55-game season in 2015. Was that enough to learn your managerial style?

We were so young last year and everybody was at different levels. I had high school kids. I had junior college kids. I had major college players. I think the biggest thing is just trying out what kind of a team you have. I like to let them play, but I also like to win. Figuring out the best possible way to put runs across the board, obviously. Hopefully, we can figure it out early. ... My biggest thing is playing hard. Everybody has the ability to hustle. … Today’s game, it’s not always about the numbers, it’s turning into more of a team type of atmosphere, and big league managers want those types of guys.

You saw Wrigley Field quite a bit as a National Leaguer and also played the White Sox during your time with Boston. Any standout memories of Chicago during your time in pro ball?

I loved playing at Wrigley. That and when I was at Boston, those were probably two of my favorite parks. … Just for some reason, I seemed to play well at Wrigley. I don’t know if it was a 368 (feet)-to-the-left- center-gap thing. … But the atmosphere there was always great, don’t get me wrong. It was nuts.

Being a contemporary of many Steroid Era stars now eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, what are your thoughts on the Hall vote?

Everybody has opinions, you know. The steroid era. It’s hard, you know. You can’t kind of look away from what they did, especially if there was enough guys doing it. It was what it was. It’s tough for all the guys that were clean. … I don’t really have any thoughts one way or another on it. They still performed. But the old asterisks. Maybe they start another Hall of Fame for all the questionable guys.

New Cougars manager Mike Benjamin spends his offseasons in Queen Creek, Arizona, but is eager to make Fifth Third Bank Ballpark one of his summer homes. Benjamin did quite well against the Cubs as a major league infielder for four teams over parts of 13 seasons and reveres the Chicago area. Now entering his second season with the parent Arizona Diamondbacks organization, Benjamin, 50, discussed his expected transition from managing Rookie League ball in 2015. Here’s an edited transcript of his conversation with Kane County Chronicle sports editor Kevin Druley in the latest installment of the Weekend Chit-chat:

Were you anticipating (D’backs farm director) Mike Bell might make this move? How did it strike you?

Mike just likes to move guys around, give them different experiences. … To me, it doesn’t matter. I actually like the younger levels. Being a full-season (league) will be a little different, but it’s baseball, and they’re still pretty young.

Why the leaning toward younger levels?

I think you can actually give them a little bit more. They’re not so far along in their career and set in their ways. They’re open for a little bit more coaching.

What happened when you were part of the staff let go at Arizona State (after the 2014 season)?

I just started making phone calls and sending out emails. ... To his credit, [Bell] was one of the few guys that actually called. I finally got replies from a couple of people, and he was one of them.

You managed a 55-game season in 2015. Was that enough to learn your managerial style?

We were so young last year and everybody was at different levels. I had high school kids. I had junior college kids. I had major college players. I think the biggest thing is just trying out what kind of a team you have. I like to let them play, but I also like to win. Figuring out the best possible way to put runs across the board, obviously. Hopefully, we can figure it out early. ... My biggest thing is playing hard. Everybody has the ability to hustle. … Today’s game, it’s not always about the numbers, it’s turning into more of a team type of atmosphere, and big league managers want those types of guys.

You saw Wrigley Field quite a bit as a National Leaguer and also played the White Sox during your time with Boston. Any standout memories of Chicago during your time in pro ball?

I loved playing at Wrigley. That and when I was at Boston, those were probably two of my favorite parks. … Just for some reason, I seemed to play well at Wrigley. I don’t know if it was a 368 (feet)-to-the-left- center-gap thing. … But the atmosphere there was always great, don’t get me wrong. It was nuts.

Being a contemporary of many Steroid Era stars now eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, what are your thoughts on the Hall vote?

Everybody has opinions, you know. The steroid era. It’s hard, you know. You can’t kind of look away from what they did, especially if there was enough guys doing it. It was what it was. It’s tough for all the guys that were clean. … I don’t really have any thoughts one way or another on it. They still performed. But the old asterisks. Maybe they start another Hall of Fame for all the questionable guys.

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