Ben Heath Named To Johnny Bench Award Watch List
March 1, 2010
WICHITA, Kan. - Penn State junior Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) was one of 53 Division I catchers named to the Watch List for the Coleman Company Johnny Bench Award delivered by Papa John's Pizza, as announced by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission on Monday. Named in honor of the former Cincinnati Reds' great, the award is presented to the top catcher in Division I.
Heath is one of five Big Ten catchers named to the list. The field will be narrowed to 10 semifinalists, whom will be announced on May 19. Three finalists will be announced on June 2 prior to the NCAA Regionals and Major League Baseball Draft. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 13th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on July 1.
Enjoying an impressive start to the season, Heath hit three home runs over the weekend to lead the Nittany Lions to a 2-1 record at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. The first broke a 1-1 deadlock in Friday's season-opener against Cincinnati. He then went deep in consecutive at-bats against Notre Dame on Sunday. The first came in the seventh inning to cut the Irish lead to 7-6 before tying the score at eight with a solo shot to lead off the ninth.
His two home runs in a game and already three for the season both tie career-highs. Overall, Heath is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with two doubles, four RBI and six runs scored. His four runs scored against Notre Dame doubled his previous career-high of two set on numerous occasions.
Heath impressed behind the plate as well, throwing out the only potential base stealer, while also catching all 25 innings in back-to-back walk-off wins against Cincinnati and Seton Hall. Penn State was one of five Big Ten teams to post a winning record at the challenge.
Among the previous Johnny Bench Award winners are current Major League Baseball players Ryan Garko and Kelly Shoppach. In total, 11 former finalists are currently playing in the big leagues.
The Nittany Lions look to build on their strong weekend when they open up a Texas swing at the YMBL Cardinal Classic hosted by Lamar University. After facing McNeese State, Dallas Baptist and host Lamar (twice), the squad also travels to play a series at Texas A&M and Texas State.
Season and individual game tickets are now available can be purchased online or over the phone. Please call 1-877-997-7453 or (814) 272-1711, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. for more information. Fans can also direct any additional questions or comments via phone, or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Baseball camp information is now available. Call the Sports Camp Office at (814) 865-0561 or email them at SportCampInfo@outreach.psu.edu for more information.
Follow Penn State baseball on Twitter: www.twitter.com/psubaseball.
Here is the complete release from Wichita Sports:
The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced the official watch list for the 2010 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award delivered by Papa John's Pizza. Fifty-three catchers were nominated for the award by their coaches. Because the award is given annually to the top division one collegiate catcher, the list will be updated to include other candidates until May 5, 2010.
The watch list will be narrowed down to ten semifinalists, whom will be announced May 19, 2010. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The finalists will be announced June 2, 2010 prior to the NCAA Regionals and Major League Baseball Draft. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 13th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on July 1, 2010.
"We are extremely appreciative to the Coleman Company, Papa John's Pizza and Mr. Johnny Bench for supporting this prestigious award," stated Bob Hanson, President/CEO of the Sports Commission. "They are the ones who make all of this possible."
While Bench is remembered for his offense, he may have had the greatest impact behind the plate. He was the first receiver to use a protective helmet in the field, popularized catching one-handed and kept his throwing hand behind his back to protect it from foul tips.
Bench's career honors include: National League Rookie of the Year (1968); National League Most Valuable Player (1970, 1972); World Series Most Valuable Player (1976); 14-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner. In 1980, he set an endurance record by catching 100+ games for 13 consecutive seasons. Bench was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January 1989 with the fourth highest percentage of total votes cast.
Johnny Bench presented University of Oklahoma catcher, J.T. Wise, with the award last June in Wichita, Kansas. Chris Henderson of George Mason University and Tony Sanchez of Boston College were the other finalists for the award. Eleven former finalists are currently playing in Major League Baseball.