June 12, 2015
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Andrew Benintendi became the first University of Arkansas baseball player in history to be named National Player of The Year by Collegiate Baseball after piling up staggering numbers in 2015.
The sophomore centerfielder was hitting .391 with 12 doubles, 18 homers, 52 RBI and 22/26 stolen bases up to the NCAA Regional playoffs.
What makes those numbers even more impressive is that one year earlier as a freshman at Arkansas, he only hit 1 home run in 61 games and produced 27 RBI while hitting .276.
This season, the lefthanded hitter has belted 17 more homers than the year prior, nearly doubled his RBI production with 25 more and hit 115 points higher.
He also has incredible speed and could have easily stolen 35-40 bases if he were cut loose on the base paths.
Benintendi is also an exceptional centerfielder and tracks down numerous balls that would be uncatchable for normal outfielders. Plus, he has a left arm that can fire balls into the infield at 90 mph.
In other words, Benintendi is the consummate 5-tool player scouts drool over.
This is why he was chosen in the first round of the MLB draft recently as the seventh overall pick by Boston as a draft eligible sophomore.
The Cincinnati native is on the brink of becoming the third player in SEC history to lead the league in home runs and batting average, currently holding a two-homer lead and 16-point edge in batting average.
Benintendi would join Rafael Palmeiro (Mississippi St. in 1984) and Jeff Abbott (Kentucky in 1994) as the only players in conference history to accomplish the feat.
He is one of two players in the country to rank in the top 15 in home runs and batting average and one of two individuals in the nation with 15-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases.
Benintendi leads the SEC in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and walks, and is the only player in the nation to rank in the top 25 nationally in every category.
The talented Arkansas center-fielder said that the transformation from an average freshman ball player into National Player of The Year began after he finished his season a year ago.
“I had a nagging quad strain last season that lingered for a month and a half,” said Benintendi.
“In talking to my trainer and coaches, everyone felt it would be best to let it totally heal during the summer and not play. So I did that and decided to really focus on getting bigger and stronger.
“I am 5-foot-10 and weighed 165 pounds at the end of my freshman season at Arkansas. Since I wasn’t playing last summer, I approached weight training as a job with my upper body. In addition, I changed my diet which helped me gain weight.
“By the end of the summer, my back, chest and arms got noticeably bigger. When I got back to Arkansas, I worked with our strength coach who does a superb job. In all, I put on 15 pounds of muscle during this time and felt a lot stronger going into the 2015 season at 180 pounds.
“There is no question this added strength has allowed me to drive the ball harder and further this season.
“I always knew I had the ability to have this type of season. It was just a matter of staying mentally strong when things weren’t going well. I have done fairly well my entire baseball career.”
To read more of the in-depth story about Andrew Benintendi’s ascent to Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of The Year, including comments from Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn, purchase the June 12, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.