The Brief Baseball Career of Cedric Benson

It seems relatively certain that Cedric Benson of the University of Texas will be one of the early choices in the National Football League draft Saturday. After that comes the contract signing which will make him a rich young man.

Benson had an impressive four-year career at Texas, enhancing his stature with a solid senior season. One of the reasons that has been cited relatively often for that is his contention that it was the first time he was able to concentrate solely on football because he had put his professional baseball aspirations behind him.

Well, as the only writer who ever covered all or any part of Benson the pro baseball player, I'd like to go back over that part of his athletic endeavors.

In June 2001, Cedric was drafted in the 12th round out of Midland, Tex. High, signing almost immediately for a bonus of $250, 000. At that time he said that he enjoyed baseball as much as football and was looking forward to competing in both sports.

From the very first, though, his actions belied that assertion. It had been agreed that he didn't have to play at all that first season so he could concentrate on getting ready for college football. He came to camp at Dodgertown with the provision that he would work out for 10 days before returning to Texas. Instead, he participated in drills for only three days, then, citing personal reasons, was allowed to go back home.

In the spring of his freshman year, it had been hoped that he would take the break time from school to come to Vero Beach to tune up for the coming season. He declined to do so, and, instead, waited until after school was out in late May before donning a baseball uniform. Assigned to the Gulf Coast Dodgers, he played outfield in exactly nine-count 'em- nine games, going 5-for-25, a not-so- neat .200 mark that included three doubles, two triples and no home runs.

His contract only required that he stay for 10 days to collect another installment on his bonus. Once again, he departed quickly. His stay was enough to indicate a couple of things. One, he was understandably rusty from lack of playing or practicing but that he also had the sheer athletic talent that could make him a prospect if he paid a great deal more attention to his game.

Certainly the Dodgers thought so. They offered him another $500, 000 to forgo the gridiron. Then organizational hitting instructor Bob Mariano, who had tutored another two-sport phenom, Deon Sanders, during his time in the Yankees organization, urged him to keep his options in both sports open. Benson, however, declined the offer and returned to Texas for his sophomore season.

He was back at Dodgertown in late May 2003. After a couple of days of practice, while playing in an intra-squad game, he bruised his right shoulder. Rather than re-habbing it under the supervision of Dodger trainers, then playing when ready, he bolted camp again for home. This time the Dodgers refused his bonus installment, citing the fact that he had failed to live up to contractual terms.

In early spring 2004, Benson announced his formal retirement from baseball. Thus, his career consisted of nine games and a few practices. It should be noted that he never missed any grid time, either in the fall or spring, to pursue his baseball hobby.

A hobby it was, albeit a rather well-paid one. Certainly not a career that took him away from football. He will, of course, be much better paid when he signs with whatever NFL team drafts him. The Dodgers probably won't even be a subject of "What I did on my summer vacation."

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