The Milwaukee Brewers selected left-handed pitcher Nick Bennett with their sixth round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. He is the third of six left handed pitchers drafted by the Brewers within their top 13 picks.
Bennett attended Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. Moeller is the old stomping grounds of Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. and, as Bennett reveals below, a current Brewer as well. After graduating high school, he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 40th round but elected to attend the University of Louisville.
As Bennett’s stats from Louisville below show, his 2019 season skewed his career numbers. He suffered a forearm strain this year, and scouting reports say it affected his stats. It is likely the Brewers obtained a good value by selecting Bennett in the sixth round.
In the lyrics of Meek Mill’s song “Blue Notes,” Nick’s walk-up song, there is a line that goes, “’cause I’m back down on my own again.” The line is appropriate for where Nick Bennett currently is in his baseball career. After three years at Louisville, he has officially signed with the Brewers. Emmett Blue has confirmed with Bennett the amount of his signing bonus. He signed for slot value, which is $244,900.
Bennett leaves on Monday for Arizona. The next day he flies out to Colorado Springs, where he will play for the Rocky Mountain Vibes of the Pioneer League. While he may be “on his own again,” he is not entirely alone. He reunites with good friend Nick Kahle, a catcher from Washington whom the Brewers selected in the fourth round. The two of them played summer ball with the Midland Tomahawks in high school. Together, they will form a battery on the Vibes, honing their skills with the hopes of ending up in Brewer blue someday.
Nick Bennett – The Man
Nick Bennett was born to parents Mike and Vicky Bennett. He has a younger sister named Samantha and a girlfriend Addy. His father played college football at the University of Cincinnati.
Bennett is not one to be intimidated by high-pressure situations. Instead, he seeks it out. After Louisville lost to Vanderbilt this year in their first game, they proceeded to the loser’s bracket. One loss would end their season. Bennett came to Louisville Coach Dan McDonnell’s office, insisting on pitching their next game. He followed up by texting him that night and coming to the office again the next morning. Each time he asked to pitch. Coach McDonell was impressed with Bennett’s initiative and gave him the ball. The Cardinals needed to win that game — and they did. By Nick’s own standards, it was not his best game, but he battled, and Lousiville won the game in walk-off fashion for the win. Nick Bennett is definitely not shy on the mound.
Nor is Nick shy when answering questions. Emmett Blue of LWOS spoke at length with Nick. He exudes a great passion for baseball and demonstrates the utmost respect. He is never at a loss for words. Watch, listen, and read to discover the charismatic competitor who is the Milwaukee Brewers sixth round draft pick.
Nick Bennett Extensive Interview
Video by Persona Sport Productions; Pencil Drawing by Desere Mayo; Audio Clips from Interview; Photos provided by Nick Bennett
Emmett Blue: Who was your favorite team and player growing up?
Nick Bennett: I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I lived there my whole life. So, my favorite team growing up was the Reds. My favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr., because he went to the same high school I went to. I really liked watching him play when I was a young kid.
At what age did you realize that you had a chance to pursue baseball professionally?
[It was] when I was a sophomore in high school – at the end of freshman year, beginning of sophomore year. That’s when my recruiting process for college baseball really started to ramp up and kind of when I knew, “You know, maybe this is a dream of mine that I can really fulfill.” Then I got drafted out of high school my senior year but decided to go to the University of Louisville. At that point, I kind of knew it was something I wanted to do and something that could happen for me. I’m just really happy for the opportunity. We are still playing baseball at Louisville (at time of interview). I’m just really happy for the opportunity when it does come.
What was it like on draft day? What were you doing?
We didn’t have practice that day, but we had lifting as a team at 1 o’clock. Then the guys who wanted to get stuff done in the training room [are able] to get worked on by a trainer. We had that open too. I did a little bit of that, I lifted at 1. I did a little bit more work with the trainer after that.
Then I hopped in the car and drove to my off-campus house where I live with two of my teammates. My mom, dad, sister, and girlfriend all met me there. We sat in the living room and actually watched the draft. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. It’s something I’ll never forget.
Do you have any friends around baseball that got drafted?
Logan Wyatt, Tyler Fitzgerald, and Michael McAvene from my team were drafted. However, the Brewers drafted a catcher from the University of Washington named Nick Kahle. [He] and I played summer ball together in high school. He actually lived in Cincinnati for a summer and played on Midland [Tomahawks] with me. So, we used to be really good friends when we played summer ball together. I think it’s just kind of cool that he and I could end up linking up again.
Have you been to a lot of Major League Ballparks?
I have not been to a ton of them. Obviously, I have been to the Reds. I’ve been to the Pirates. We played in Pittsburgh my sophomore year, and we went to a Pirates game. I’ve been to Fenway as well when I played in the Cape Cod League my freshman summer. I haven’t really been to a ton of big league parks. A dream of mine and a goal of mine is to make it around to different big league parks.
I was at Fenway too. It’s a very nice stadium.
Very nice. It has so much history to it. It’s just a really, really neat ballpark. I’m a huge fan of that park.
What ballpark are you most looking forward to playing at?
(Perks up) The Brewers ballpark! That’s the one I’m most looking forward to! I’m really thankful to the Brewers organization for giving me this opportunity. I’m going to make the most of it and hope to be pitching in the Brewers ballpark.
What do you know about Wisconsin and the Brewers?
A couple of my teammates right now are from Wisconsin. They told me Milwaukee (and Wisconsin) is a very pretty place, and I’ll really enjoy it there. They said that they have some really good baseball fans. When you have Christian Yelich on your team and other big name guys, you know it’s a pretty decent team. I see the Brewers on TV a lot on ESPN and MLB Network. A pitcher from the Brewers reached out to me after I got drafted, Brent Suter. He and I went to the same high school. He reached out to me. That was really cool too.
He’s a Harvard grad, funny guy, great pitcher, and great defender at pitcher.
Yeah, he’s awesome! He’s great. He texted me he said, “Hey Nick this is Brent, just wanted to say congratulations on getting drafted by the Brewers. Welcome to the organization. If you have any questions just let me know.” It’s just really cool for him to do that. You can’t go wrong talking to someone who graduated from Harvard. That’s impressive.
Which racing sausage do you think will have the most wins this year?
You know, I’m a huge hot dog fan so I have to go with the hot dog.
Playing the Game
Emmett Blue: What are you like as a teammate?
Nick Bennett: As a teammate, I’m a leader who my teammates can always come to. I put the team first and care about my teammates like they are my brothers. My teammates are one of the reasons I have so much fun playing baseball.
What is your routine like on days you pitch? Do you have a set routine that you follow?
Yes. This is my third year at the University of Louisville, and I’ve been a starting pitcher all three years. My game day routine usually gets me to the field about three, three and a half hours before the game. I’ll eat a meal; it really doesn’t matter what I eat. I’m usually in the training room for about 45 minutes getting myself ready. Before I go out to the field I always eat a banana and drink a Gatorade. Then I go out and stretch. Then I long toss [and] warm up in the bullpen. And then it’s go time.
The banana is good for muscle cramps, correct?
That’s right! That’s exactly what it’s for. It helps prevent cramps. It gets pretty hot and humid in Louisville, so it’s pretty important that I’m drinking a lot of water and eating the right stuff too.
You had a forearm strain this year. What’s the update on that?
I sat out for two starts. I could have pitched in the second start after I missed a week, but our trainer decided it was best that we just wait for me to pitch in the ACC Tournament. A week before the ACC tournament against Florida State, we had already won the league, so they were just playing it safe with me to make sure I was ready for the postseason.
Reports on you say you throw a fastball, curveball, and changeup. Is that right?
I have a cutter too. My fastball is 90-92, I can touch 93, maybe 94, if I’m feeling it on a certain day.
All these pitches are really fun toys to play with. What one is your favorite to throw?
(Laughs) Obviously, lots of pitchers love throwing the breaking ball, and I’m one of those pitchers. I can use my curveball in a lot of different ways just to keep a batter off balance – throw it for the first pitch, throw it for a strike. I can strike a guy out with it too, but I like my changeup a lot. I’ll throw it to righties and lefties. That’s just a pitch I’ve been working on a lot my whole college career, just because I really think that pitch can be really helpful to me at the next level.
Left-handed pitching is becoming more of a premium, especially lefties that can get out right-handed hitters. Perhaps you don’t want to give too much away with your team in the College World Series (at the time of this interview), but in general, how does your approach change from a right-handed hitter to a left-handed hitter?
For a lefty, obviously, it’s harder for the hitter to see it out of my hand, because I’m a pretty tall guy. And I’m over the top with it and standing on the mound too. That can be tougher for lefties. I think the difference between righties and lefties is my ability to use all of my pitches against a lefty and I don’t use all my pitches to a righty. I just have different plans with my coach when I [face] a lefty or a righty. It’s just different depending on who I’m pitching against, what the scouting report is, and their strengths and weaknesses.
What two things are you looking to improve on in your play at the next level?
I want to continue to work on my changeup, throwing it whenever I want to throw it. I really want to work hard in the weight room, work on my mechanics, and maybe even find another mile an hour or two miles an hour on my fastball. [That] would be really helpful for me at the next level. Hitting spots is obviously really important too, just being able to throw the ball where I want to throw it. Have a plan and maybe get a tick or two more on my fastball and really work on my changeup.
Every player has something within that drives them to perform. What is inside of you that drives you to compete on the mound?
For me, I’m a very competitive person. I hate losing more than I love winning. I think something that gets me going is just the will to win and then just having fun with the game too. I don’t want to look back when my baseball career is done and think that I didn’t have all the fun I could have playing baseball – just take it one day at a time and cherish my moments as they go in baseball right now.
There is a picture of you where you are just super-pumped on the mound. Do you have a favorite strikeout or favorite situation on the mound?
I have a specific situation. Usually, in the postseason at the University of Louisville, we get a lot of fans to the game. They’re really into the game. Just when I have 2 strikes on a guy and all the fans are clapping and going nuts, and I end up striking the guy out. That’s just a really electric moment for me, and that’s where I get really excited on the mound after I strike a guy out. Just when the fans are into the game and the specific pitch.
That just kind of really gets me going. Before the pitch, I get the energy from [the fans]. Then after the pitch is when the energy comes from me. It’s me having fun playing the game.
What is your greatest baseball memory so far?
My greatest baseball memory so far to this day is my freshman year of college when we beat UK (University of Kentucky) twice in the Super Regional and dogpiled after that. That was something really incredible for me. Just that feeling and that dogpile was something I had never been a part of. So, when that happened my freshman year of college, that was something really incredible for me.
Day 7 of the #Cards2018Countdown with Opening Day just a week away…
7: Total run differential for the Cardinals in the 2 games versus UK in the 2017 NCAA Super Regional. Louisville never trailed in the 18 innings against the Wildcats before clinching the trip to Omaha. #L1C4 pic.twitter.com/3JQL9JkdLO
— Louisville Baseball (@LouisvilleBSB) February 9, 2018
One more thing that was really exciting was as a freshman getting to start a game in the college world series. Pitching in that park ( what park ) and being in front of all those fans I think that might be the closest resemblance to pitching in a big league park
Emmett Blue: What sports do you like to follow other than baseball?
Nick Bennett: I like following basketball and football as well. I played all three sports in high school. I didn’t play all three of them all four years, but my dad played college football at the University of Cincinnati. So, I really like watching college football. I’m a huge fan of college sports in general, but I also really like watching professional basketball and football. I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan as well.
Are you a big music fan?
Yes, I like all different kinds of music. I can always get behind some oldies music too, whether it’s oldies, pop, or whatever it is. I can listen to just about any kind of music.
If you get to choose one song for how your baseball career will unfold what will it be?
I’ll have to go with “Blue Notes” by Meek Mill. That’s been my walkup song for the past two years when I walk out to the mound. I think I would keep that with me.
You’re a big golfer, correct?
Yes, I haven’t played this year yet because we’ve been in season, but my roommate is a huge golfer – lives and breathes golf. I also like going on a run. Listening to music and going on a run. I like watching a movie here and there.
I like playing pickup basketball too. Obviously, not right now because we’re in season. In the offseason, it can be good because it’s a good form of cardio.
What do you want to tell Brewer fans?
I’m thankful to the Brewers organization for giving me this opportunity to pursue my dream of playing professional baseball. I would like to say thank you to all of Brewers Nation and all of the amazing fans who gave me a warm welcome, whether they reached out to me on social media or however.
I’m really excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to be a Brewer.
Embed from Getty Images