The Gene Bennett Baseball Classic kicks of Wednesday June 8, 2016 at 9 a.m., with its first match up that pits the Huntington Hounds against the Kentucky Colonels.
Organized in 2010, the event honors the local legend Gene Bennett. Bennett graduated from Wheelersburg High School in 1946 and went on to sign a pro contract with the Cincinnati Reds in 1952. He played six seasons in the big leagues until he started scouting for the organization in 1958. He went on to become scouting supervisor for the Reds and eventually was a front office executive for the club until 2005. He signed such players as Barry Larkin, Don Gullett and Chris Sabo.
“I’m really excited,” said Gene. “We have many, many great teams this year. The whole purpose of this event is to bring high caliber baseball talent to the area. There will be many future collegiate and pro players taking part in the event.”
The tournament boasts 18 travel ball teams, filled with talented and gifted high school baseball prospects from Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. They will compete from Wednesday until the championship game which takes place Sunday.
“Gene had a vision to bring top flight amateur baseball to Scioto County,” said Chris Moore, organizer of the event and baseball recruiting coach at Shawnee State University. “This is the seventh year for the event, and I am proud to be able to put it together for the area. But, it’s Gene’s brain child. He really wanted to bring these kind of future college and pro athletes to the area.”
The Classic will honor the State Championship winning Wheelersburg Lady Pirates on Saturday, at 6 P.M. Pitcher Faith Howard will throw out the first pitch in that game.
“I try to do anything I can to help the area,” Bennett said. “And of course, I’m from Wheelersburg. I loved to see the girls win the championship, they are a great team. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to give back to my hometown, to help build up the little league fields and things like that.
“Gene Bennett: My 58 years with the Cincinnati Reds,” is a book he finished earlier in the year. All proceeds are donated to the Wheelersburg little leagues. Thus far, it has sold 700 copies.
“You can look for me down around the fields in my golf cart this week,” laughed Bennett. “I don’t walk to well anymore but I will be there. Every year I talk to every single team individually. We talk about what scouts expect, and what they look for in a prospect.”
Games span to six different fields over five days. Branch Rickey Park, Portsmouth High School, Lewis County High School, Minford High School, Valley High School and of course, Wheelersburg will all host tournament games.
“These kids come from everywhere. We have international players, too. They always walk away impressed with Scioto County.”
Look for Gene Bennett and his golf cart this week as the tournament will be in full swing. Stop and buy a copy of his book that will be on sale at the various locations. Lastly, make sure you buy some peanuts and cracker jacks while you enjoy top quality baseball.
Reach Derrick Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @DC__Parker