Injuries ended his season early, but Vermont Lake Monsters’ utilityman Joe Bennie raised his profile considerably with a solid second professional season. The East Stroudsburg alum posted a .288/.369/.378 line in 45 games for the Lake Monsters and looks poised to move up to full-season ball in 2015.
Selected in the 28th round by the Oakland A’s last season, Bennie spent his professional debut season in the Arizona Rookie League. He hit only .246 in 20 games, but he proved a tough out, walking 14 times and posting a .380 OBP.
After a productive stint at extended spring training, Bennie was assigned to the Opening Day roster for the Vermont Lake Monsters. He got off to a fast start, batting .328 with a .408 OBP in June. He continued to hit well in July and was named to the New York-Penn League All-Star game. Unfortunately, Bennie injured his hand just before the game and was limited to pinch-running duties during the mid-summer classic. He didn’t appear in a regular season game after the All-Star break.
Bennie is a classic top-of-the-order hitter who sees a lot of pitches, grinds out at-bats and has good speed. Primarily a second baseman, Bennie also has seen time in the outfield and continuing to add to his defensive versatility will only help him as he moves up the organizational ladder.
Donald Moore spoke with Bennie during the Lake Monsters’ final road trip of the season about his second year in professional baseball…
Donald Moore: How's everything going so far for you this season?
Joe Bennie: It's going good. I mean it started off pretty good. I got a little banged up towards the end, running into a fence and hand issues. So I haven't really haven't played that much in the last month and a half.
DM: What are your goals for this year?
JB: Right now, just to get healthy going into the off season. Coming into this season was to have a good year for myself, and put myself on the map. Make myself noticed by the head guys and I think I did that with the start I got off to. Just need to get healthy this off season.
DM: What do feel is your greatest strength as a ballplayer?
JB: Hitting. I think that's my ticket and wherever they put me in the field, I'll play.
DM: What would you like to improve on?
JB: Being able to steal some bases. I have speed, but I haven't really utilized it yet, I still have to learn a couple of things, and also figuring it out a little more defensively, finding a position. Newby [manager David Newhan] has moved me around a lot. I play primarily at second, but I also played the outfield. In extended, I played all over the place. Just finding a position.
DM: How are you adjusting to professional baseball?
JB: Good. Last year I was a little rough in the beginning, kind of just catching up to the speed of the game. Being a D2 guy, it kind of caught me off guard a little bit. I think I adjusted well this year and in extended, and I finally got some confidence and rolled with it. I feel good. I finally feel like I'm a professional player.
DM: What is the best thing about being a professional baseball player?
JB: Getting paid to play baseball everyday. Getting to know all of these guys. Everyone is talking about going home in a week or two, but I'm going to miss these guys. You hang out with them since April, and you kind of get close to them. Just playing baseball everyday.
DM: Any pregame routine?
JB: No. Play cards.
DM: Favorite thing you like to do off the field?
JB: Hang out with friends and see my family. I kind of lay back.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
JB: New York Yankees
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
JB: There is a couple of people. My dad. Ever since I was young, he has been my main coach. But professionally, coach David Newhan. He kind of took me under his wing in extended spring training and he has really, really helped me out a lot.
DM: Craziest thing you have ever seen on a baseball diamond?
JB: I saw in college my coach got so upset with a call, he took off his uniform on the field and walked away, so that was a little strange.
DM: Where do you see yourself several years down the road?
JB: Hopefully, the big leagues. That's the goal and to get there as fast as possible. So, yeah, hopefully the big leagues.
DM: Joe, thank you so much for your time and the best of luck to you in the future.
JB: Thank you. I appreciate it.