It’s a quality that Gene Bennett brought into all of our lives, and it’s a quality that continues to live on as the Ninth Annual Gene Bennett Baseball Classic showed during Thursday evening’s Opening Ceremonies, which took place at Branch Rickey Park in Portsmouth.
The beloved daughter of the legendary Cincinnati Reds scout, Cathy Bennett Jennings, spoke. Al Oliver spoke as well. And local signing talent and Clay tennis head coach/basketball assistant Bobby Blanton sung rousing renditions of “Oh, Canada!” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
It all went off without a hitch — and it all went along in the manner that Gene Bennett would’ve wanted it to.
That, according to Jennings, is a credit to the individuals that helped put the tournament together.
“Carrying this classic on was one of the promises that my Dad asked me to uphold,” Jennings said. “At the time, I was scared to death. I was thinking, ‘How are we going to do this? Dad’s always been a part of it.’ A big thanks go to Dean Schuler, Tim Martin, Richard Roe, Al Oliver, Johnnie LeMaster, and the staff at Shawnee State for putting yeoman’s work into this. We, as a family, really can’t thank them enough.”
Ultimately, 13 of the 16 teams carried out their commitment to participating in the 2018 Gene Bennett Baseball Classic — an uptick from eight teams a year ago. Four different states (Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia), along with the Canadian province of Ontario, are represented in the latest version of the GBBC.
“This classic was one thing that meant a lot to Dad,” Jennings said of the meaning of the classic to Bennett. “He really enjoyed the kids, and a lot of these kids look up to him as a family member because he knew their parents or scouted their parents. This classic really was one big family reunion and brought everything full circle, and it meant a lot to Dad for those reasons.”
And those reasons are arguably why next year’s version — the 10th Annual version of the Gene Bennett Baseball Classic — is already lock, according to Jennings. In fact, the only change to the GBBC, as of now, will be when pool play and tournament action start up, as Jennings wants to try to accommodate teams who still have student-athletes playing in high school state championship baseball tournaments across the United States.
“We’re going to do it again next year,” Jennings said. “We’re moving it back a weekend, though. It’ll probably be the weekend of June 21st next year. We’re very pleased. From the Great Lakes Canadians and the Diamond Prospect teams from Texas to our teams in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia, we’re really excited about the field that we have.”
A more in-depth recap of the GBBC will be coming within the next five days. Pool play standings for Day One of the GBBC are listed below
Pool Play Standings — Day One
t-1. Portsmouth Post 23 (2-0)
t-1. Ashland (Ky.) Post 76 (2-0)
t-1. Huntington (W. Va.) Patriots Navy (2-0)
t-1. Great Lakes (Ont.) Canadians (2-0)
t-1. Ohio Force 16U (2-0)
t-6. Louisville (Ky.) Sun Devils (1-1)
t-6. Huntington (W. Va.) Patriots Red (1-1)
t-6. Russell, Ky. (1-1)
t-9. Cannonsburg (Ky.) Boyd County (0-2)
t-9. Diamond Prospects 15U (0-2)
t-9. Diamond Prospects 17U (0-2)
t-9. Ohio Force 17U (0-2)
t-9. Huntington (W. Va.) Hounds 16U (0-2)
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT