Baseball

Fun Facts: Westhill’s Jake Benner

A new Fun Facts with Westhill baseball player Jake Benner.

What is your team hoping to accomplish this season and how are you working towards this mutual goal? What are you personally hoping to accomplish? We are taking a very “one game at a time” approach this season. If we can win games and ultimately win weeks, good things will happen. We are trying not to look too far ahead. Personally, I want to continue to develop as a player and be the best teammate that I can be. I would also like to be captain one day. 

How have your older teammates in previous years made an impact on you and your performance? As a freshman I looked up to the varsity players (Montana Semmel, drafted by Yankees; Bobby Zmarzlak, Maryland/drafted by Orioles; TJ Wainwright, Central Connecticut) since they were very talented, competitive, team-oriented and passionate for the game. I was given the opportunity to experience their playoff journey and support them along the way. There I learned the core characteristic on how to be successful on and off the field. I will carry the lessons and work ethic that I learned through this experience with my current and future teammates.

If you could meet one MLB player, who would it be and why? If I could meet one MLB Player, it would have been Hank Aaron because he was a great hitter and was inspirational to a lot of people. I admire him as a player and everything that he stood for. 

Do you have game day rituals? When did they start? I eat a nutella sandwich before every game, and recently I have been wearing Macho Man Randy Savage sunglasses throughout the school day. The glasses were given to me by Coach Riv (Mike Riveles) as recognition for my “Savage” performance on the field vs. Darien. This ritual gets me fired up and mentally prepared for the battle ahead.

Are you planning on playing baseball in college? If so, which schools are you looking at and why? Right now I’m only focusing on doing the best that I can for Westhill. After this season, I will evaluate my opportunities for the next level.   

What’s your favorite baseball/sports movie and why? My favorite baseball movie is The Sandlot because it is about a bunch of kids having a great time playing baseball. 

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How did the environment on your team contribute to your success when you played Fairfield Ludlowe, with home runs in each of the first three innings? The energy in the dugout was similar to a bunch of caged wild animals. We were fired up from the first pitch and kept our foot on the gas the whole game. The cheering was over the top, to the point where players were losing their voices by the second inning. This pumped me up. 

How did your team support you after your stellar performance on Tuesday? How did you feel during and after the game? The outpouring of support and congratulatory comments was overwhelming. However, we are a team and we are all working towards the same goal. This was by far the best game that I have ever had, but more importantly, it was the most fun I have ever had. It was awesome to experience it with this group of guys. The celebrations and camaraderie will forever be ingrained in my memory.  

What are your strengths as both an athlete and a person? The biggest strength that I have is my work ethic, both on and off the diamond. I am a 4.0 student taking all honors and AP courses. Throughout the offseason, I have been working on my baseball skills with the Clubhouse CT in Fairfield, as well as strength and speed training at the Bobby Valentine’s Training Lab in Stamford.  My other strengths as an athlete and a person are: competitive, determined, confidence in ability, never give up attitude and always giving 150%.

How did losing a season due to COVID-19 impact your development as a player? When COVID-19 first hit, I was disappointed to lose the season, but it didn’t stop me from doing what I love. Everyday after finishing my school work, I went to the Westhill batting cage with my dad, as well as hitting off the tee in my backyard. I looked up hitting videos to enhance my training. Fortunately, I was able to have a summer season with the Clubhouse. Also in the fall, Coach Riv pulled together a season in the Greater Hudson Valley League, where the Westhill team was able to play some games together. 

— Tasha Taubenheim