BOSTON — Andrew Benintendi rooted for the Red Sox growing up.
Now, he is apparently on the verge of joining his favorite team.
“Obviously it’s a great organization and they’ve got great history,” the Arkansas center fielder said after the Red Sox made him the seventh pick in the draft on Monday night. “Growing up, I was a big Red Sox fan. I looked up to guys like Dustin Pedroia — he’s obviously not the biggest guy but the way he competes, the way he works, is motivating for me.
“I’m excited to be a Red (Sox) and excited to start.”
Like the 5-8 Pedroia, Benintendi, 5-10, isn’t the biggest guy for his position. But he was much bigger as a sophomore than as a freshman, working on adding size and muscle between the two seasons. The move paid off and Benintendi is tied for the Division I lead with 19 homers and is batting .380 with 23 stolen bases in 27 attempts as his team shook off a shaky start and is headed for the College World Series.
After that, the Red Sox hope to get him signed. It sounds like they won’t have a problem.
Benintendi, drafted in the 31st round out of high school, where he was the national player of the year in Cincinnati, is the SEC Player of the Year and was also chosen as national Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball.
He’s also a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, speaking on the same conference call with Benintendi, 20, and director of amateur scouting Mike Rickard, said the club’s awareness and familiarity with the player goes back to his high school days in Cincinnati. The vast improvement shown by Benintendi brought the Red Sox to Monday night.
“When it got time for our pick at seven, he was the top player on the board; it was obvious who we were taking and we were really excited to take him,” said Cherington.
As far as the improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, Rickard said, “The leap that Andrew made is a little bit unusual. Not many guys make that that type of stride from their freshman year to their sophomore year. I do think it is a little bit unusual but he obviously had an outstanding year this year.”
Benintendi was the Red Sox’s only pick on the first night, two other selections lost because of the free-agent signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.