Mourning a legend

By Nikki Blankenship - [email protected]

Lifelong Wheelersburg resident and Reds star Gene Bennett dies at 89.

Lifelong Wheelersburg resident and Reds star Gene Bennett dies at 89.

The Cincinnati Reds and the community are mourning the loss of Wheelersburg native and Reds legend Gene Bennett, who died in Portsmouth Wednesday at the age of 89.

“Gene was one of the game’s great scouts,” Reds President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Castellini stated in press release on Wednesday. “He loved baseball, loved his team and forever changed the way we looked for talented players. He will be missed.”

Bennett was the senior special assistant to the Reds’ general managers from October 1992 until he retired in January 2011. Bennett originally signed as a player in 1952 and then began scouting in 1958. He was promoted to scouting supervisor in 1974. Bennett is credited with signing such Reds Hall of Famers as Don Gullett, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Jeff Russell, Charlie Leibrandt and Paul O’Neill.

“Gene has been part of the Reds’ family for more than 60 years,” said Reds President and Chief Executive Officer Dick Williams. “His legacy touches not only our organization but also the baseball scouting fraternity. He made countless contributions to the success of our proud franchise.”

Not only was Bennett respected for his scouting expertise, he was also credited with impacting team executives.

“Gene had a major influence on me not only in baseball, but in life in general,” Vice President and Assistant General Manager Nick Krall stated. “We talked about baseball, giving back to the community and family. I can’t begin to describe how much I appreciate him for taking that time for me.”

Bennett received the Topps Scout of the Month Award 12 times and in 1988 received the Topps All-Star Scout Award. In 1996, he was elected to the Middle Atlantic Major League Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame., in January 2009, Bennett received the Legends in Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation (PBSF) and at the December 2009 Winter Meetings, he received the Midwest Scout of the Year Award.

PBSF is an organization aimed at providing support to professional baseball scouts who have experienced job loss, illness retirement or other financial setbacks.

On the local front, Bennett has made numerous contributions to the community. Most recently, Bennett wrote My 58 Years with the Cincinnati Reds, donating all proceeds to the Wheelersburg Little League.

He is the namesake of the Gene Bennett Baseball Park in Wheelersburg and the Gene Bennett Baseball Classic, which has been held at Shawnee State University (SSU) for eight years and was established to elevate and inspire youth, promote community development and bring baseball back to the region. The GBBC, which was formed in 2010 by travel ball coach Ron Slusher, a local businessman in Jeff Brown and former SSU head coach and tournament director Ted Tom, the Gene Bennett Baseball Classic was named after Bennett to honor is lifelong contributions to the sport.

Bennett was preceded in death by his wife, Loretta. He is survived by one son, David; one daughter, Cathy; and four grandchildren.

Funeral arraignments are pending.

The Cincinnati Reds organization and its media relations department contributed to this story.

Lifelong Wheelersburg resident and Reds star Gene Bennett dies at 89. Wheelersburg resident and Reds star Gene Bennett dies at 89.

By Nikki Blankenship

[email protected]

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.