Legacy. Tradition. A who’s who of American sport. As the Gatorade Player of the Year program celebrates its 30th anniversary year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, fans can count many a household name on the roster of former award-winners. Over the past three decades, prep sports’ most esteemed honor boasts Super Bowl, World Series, NBA, WNBA, MLS Cup, NCAA and Olympic champions among more than 13,000 State Players of the Year and 270 National POYs across 12 sports. Let’s not forget the scores of program alumni who have gone on to capture league-MVP, All-Star and All-American recognition. Today, we’re catching up with Andrew Benintendi.
When it comes to soaring shots, the baseballs that Andrew Benintendi has been regularly launching out of Dickey-Stephens Park in Arkansas aren’t the only things that are flying high for the Razorbacks’ sophomore outfielder. His stock as an MLB draft prospect is also rising at an impressive clip.
Just two years removed from capturing Gatorade Ohio Baseball Player of the Year honors at Cincinnati’s Madeira High, Benintendi is once again displaying the mojo that made him one of the most celebrated prep baseball players in Ohio history. As a high school senior in 2013, he set state records for runs scored both in a single season (60) and career (199) in addition to finishing second in state history for career base hits (213). Benintendi batted .562 with 12 home runs, 55 RBI and 37 stolen bases in his final varsity campaign, leading the Mustangs (24-6) to the Division III district semifinals.
Still, he endured some growing pains in his first collegiate season at Arkansas. He batted a solid but unspectacular .276 as a freshman and mustered only one home run in 225 at-bats. What a difference a year makes.
Benintendi dedicated himself to a grueling offseason conditioning program, and the results have been eye opening. He’s already smacked 17 homers in just 177 at-bats in 2015 to go along with a gaudy .412 batting average and 1.287 OPS. He’s also stolen 20 bases and scored a whopping 52 runs.
“I thought he would hit nine or 10 homers this season. But I’m not sure if I saw (17) at this juncture coming,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn told D1Baseball.com. “He’s just a really good player, and there’s a lot of leverage in his swing.”
The turnaround has been so dramatic, in fact, that Benintendi is now being projected as a top-50 pick in next month’s Major League Baseball draft. He actually was drafted out of high school in the 31st round (945th overall) by his hometown Cincinnati Reds in 2013 but opted to go to Arkansas for some much-needed seasoning. Needless to say, it seems to have done the trick.
To see the legacy for yourself, visit the Gatorade Player of the Year winner archive, where you can relive history and see which future stars won their first national recognition as high school athletes. To see the cream of the crop, visit the roster of Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year winners, showcasing Gatorade’s top male and female National Player of the Year honoree, selected annually from each POY class.