Johnny Bench teaches at Choctaw baseball camp
LIKE THIS n Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench talks baseball with upcoming players for the Choctaw Tribe on the Pearl River Reservation Monday. Photo by Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
June 5, 2001
PHILADELPHIA Johnny Bench was no dumb jock when he played Major League baseball for the Cincinnati Reds. He doesn't think other athletes should be either.
Bench was on the Choctaw reservation at Pearl River Monday to lead a youth baseball camp. In addition to teaching the skills needed to play the game, Bench also told the numerous youngsters on hand that the traits needed to be successful on the diamond are often those needed to be successful in life.
Bench grew up in tiny Binger, Okla., where the population was just a tad over 660. When other kids were asked in school what they wanted to be, they'd reply a teacher or a doctor, etc. Bench always said he wanted to be a big league baseball player. That response often led to laughter from those around him.
Bench went on to play 17 seasons in the Major League, winning 10 Gold Gloves and being picked to 14 All-Star Games. He wound up his career with a .267 batting average with 381 doubles, 389 homers, 2,048 hits, and 1,376 RBI. He also drew 891 walks.
He was named the catcher on the All-Century Team and was rated the 16th greatest player of all time regardless of position. And when he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, Bench received a whopping 96.42 percent of the votes cast.
So who laughed last?
Bench didn't play around in the classroom as he was the valedictorian of his senior class.
It's all a matter of knowing what you want to do and following the steps to reach that goal.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.