The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

July 12, 2011

Benson to headline festivities at PL All-Star game

Former MLB pitcher will impart wisdom

BECKLEY — Kris Benson doesn’t get to pay much attention to professional sports these days. He’s in the process of starting his own business, and has a 1-year-old son with which he is spending time.

But, he is aware of what is going on in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates, with whom Benson started a 10-year major league career in 1999, are one game out of first place in the National League Central and have their best record at the All-Star break in 19 years. One of the key members is second baseman Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native who Benson got to know well during his days in the Steel City.

Benson can relate to the likes of Walker, a young player trying to establish himself in the big leagues. But he also knows what it’s like to be in the shoes of the 54 players who will be in Beckley Wednesday for the Prospect League All-Star game.

The right-hander will be the guest speaker at a noon banquet for players, coaches and team personnel. The all-stars are among the top college prospects in the nation, and advice is likely coming at them from every direction.

“I would tell them to take one or two things from what every person tells them,” Benson said in a recent phone interview. “There is a lot of bad information out there, unfortunately.”

Benson pitched 11 years in the big leagues for Pittsburgh, the New York Mets, Baltimore, Texas and Arizona. He finished with a career record of 70-75 and 4.42 earned run average, and had 806 strikeouts.

The Pirates made Benson the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 first-year players draft after a huge college career at Clemson University. He was college baseball’s player of the year that spring, one year after going 14-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 142 innings.

Benson was on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team that won bronze in Atlanta, the city he now calls home.

West Virginia Miners pitching coach Jeff Wallace was a teammate of Benson in Pittsburgh. Benson will sign autographs during the home run derby that will start at 5:30 p.m., then throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the 7:05 p.m. game.

Gates will open for the home run derby at 5 p.m. Fans must have a game ticket to watch the derby.

Five players from each team will participate. There will be two rounds of 10 outs, from which two finalists will be pared. They will each get five pitches to determine a champion.

Miners shortstop Zach Tanner, who leads the league with seven homers, is the only confirmed participant.

Ticket prices are $10 for chairback seats and $7 for bleacher seats. They can be purchased by calling 304-252-7233 or online at www.wvminersbaseball.com, or by going to the stadium at 200 Stadium Drive, off Ragland Road.

— E-mail: gfauber@

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