Last weekend Coach Bob Bennett was welcomed back to Pete Beiden Field for a special dedication ceremony. The current Fresno State baseball facility is now known as Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium.
It is a well-deserved honor for a man who not only had an illustrious coaching career, but was also a mentor, leader and friend to so many of us here in the Valley.
Bennett was a Bulldog from the very beginning. He was a standout catcher for Fresno State College wearing (now retired) No. 26, and in 1953 set a school record for fielding by going 224 chances with no errors; an incredible statistic any way you look at it!
Bennett began his coaching career as a high school baseball coach at Kingsburg and Bullard high schools, compiling more than 200 wins. After Coach Beiden retired in 1969, Bennett became head coach at Fresno State.
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The rest is history.
As a child growing up in the 1970s, I have fond memories of watching the Bulldogs play, sitting on benches, dust swirling around my feet, eating a hot dog, and waiting to see what the ’Dogs would do that day. It was always a good day at the baseball field for me!
Bulldogs players were gracious, hard-working and fun to watch, and it’s a reason my family and I still love to watch the Bulldogs today.
Bennett’s on-field accomplishments are renowned. He won 1,302 games while at Fresno State to finish seventh all-time in NCAA Division 1 victories, and had 25 consecutive winning seasons averaging over 40 wins per year.
He was widely regarded as one of the nation’s top pitching coaches with 19 professional pitchers drafted. Bennett coached 32 All Americans, nine first-round draft picks, won 17 conference championships, was the 1988 National Coach of the Year, Coached Team USA, and led the Bulldogs to two College World Series appearances.
All in all, more than 100 players went on to play some level of professional baseball under his tutelage. Coach was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.
All of these statistics tell the story of wins, losses and accolades. But as a mom of three boys growing up in the Valley and the daughter of a coach, it is his legacy of developing countless student athletes who went on to be quality members of the community that will leave the greatest impression.
Discipline, hard work and civic pride were traits characteristic of his teams and of the men he coached. These traits continue to show up in the local teams we currently field.
No other community such as ours can boast the current state-ranked No. 1, 3 and 10 high school baseball programs, countless D1 recruits and many other talented student athletes that go on to represent us at the D2 or community college level.
This is not a one-year fluke either; our kids are consistently competitive year over year. I may be biased, but we also turn out athletes with great character, grades and effort, and this can be traced to an environment and legacy where this is what is expected.
During his tenure, Bennett developed 35 Major Leaguers, including Terry Pendleton, Eric Fox, Tom Goodwin, Mark Gardner, Bobby Jones, Steve Hosey, Jeff Weaver, and Dennis Springer (to name a few).
Most of these pros have returned to coach or live in the Valley and have given their resources and expertise to the community they love. There is literally not one program in town that doesn’t have a coach, an assistant, or grandson of Bennett affiliated with it!
My sons were lucky enough to be instructed by some of Bob Bennett’s alums throughout their baseball careers, including Bryan Marsoobian, Bobby Jones, Terrance Frazier and others. These men are dedicated to the development of future generations of baseball players, ensuring that Bennett’s enduring legacy is still being felt.
I am thankful to live in the Valley, as I am constantly reminded that this is a unique place to live and call home. I am proud of our heritage of team, community and family. I know many of you have looked forward to a day when we could honor Bennett and that day has finally arrived!
Stacy Froese-Borchardt is a healthcare sales representative for a Fortune 100 company in the Valley. She has three boys, three dogs and gets no sleep. She would happily be on any baseball field any day of the week.