Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn will have one true freshman in the starting lineup on Friday against Appalachian State and it's no surprise that player in center fielder Andrew Benintendi.
Andrew Benintendi will bat leadoff for Arkansas and play center field on Friday.
Benintendi, 5-10, 170, signed with Arkansas out of Cincinnati (Ohio) Madeira High School. He had countless offers from schools around the nation and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. Benintendi will be the leadoff hitter for Arkansas and big things are expected of him despite an injury he's just coming back from.
“He broke a little bone in his right hand and had that surgically repaired late December,” Van Horn said. “I have seen him swing the bat and he hasn't swung the bat as late as he did in the fall, but I think that's probably a good thing to be honest with you.
“Last week in the cages he swung the bat really well. I could see the bat speed coming back. The injury was an injury you get from swinging the bat and they removed that little bone out of there. He'll be fine.”
As a senior at Medeira, Benintendi hit .564 with 12 home runs, 57 RBI and 38 stolen bases. At least one publication named him the National Player of the Year. Benintendi was asked about the transition he has made to Arkansas.
“It has been a great transition,” Benintendi said. “It was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made coming here. The coaches have given me the opportunity to play right away.
“The older guys here have really taken me under their wing. We're all excited for the season to start and it can't get here soon enough.”
Benintendi and the Razorbacks will open the season Friday at 3:05. Van Horn likes Benintendi's versatility at the top of the order.
“I have been hitting leadoff in the scrimmages we've had,” Benintendi said. “I have hit leadoff all my life, but I will do whatever they need me to do to help our team win.”
The snow, ice and extreme cold temperatures have hampered Arkansas' preparations for the season. However, coming from Ohio, Benintendi is used to this type weather.
“It's still cold no matter where you are from,” Benintendi said with a wide smile. “But, it's something I'm definitely used to. At this point last year I would be playing basketball. It's new, coming down here, I thought it would be a little bit warmer, but you can't blame the weather.”
Benitendi played hoops and played it well. As a senior, he averaged 25.5 points per game. Benintendi talked about what he feels makes him a good center fielder.
“I'm pretty quick on my feet,” Benintendi said. “I have been given a great chance to come here and possibly start in the outfield.
As far as passing up Arkansas and signing with the Reds last year, Benintendi talked about what was the deciding factors to come to school.
“It really depended on the money,” Benintendi said. “Once it got past the first or second round I knew I was coming here. It was a win-win situation either way.”
For the Razorbacks, fans and Van Horn, it was a definite win-win when he signed Benintendi and when the talented recruit chose to come to school. Benintendi hits from the left side and throws left-handed as well.