Bennett lands on his feet


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

As Collin Bennett steps onto the field at Les Murakami Stadium, one look into the sky reminds him of what could have been.

“;I talk to my parents a lot about it,”; he said. “;It's 30 degrees (in Pullman) and I'm out here playing in 85-degree weather.

“;I can't complain.”;

At one time, playing at Washington State was all Bennett, now the starting right fielder for the Hawaii baseball team, dreamed of. A native of Bellevue, Wash., Bennett grew up hoping to one day play for one of the two home-state schools.

“;Originally when I grew up, my whole mind-set was to play at either the University of Washington or Washington State because that's where the best players go,”; he said. “;Washington State started recruiting me my sophomore year and I kind of made up my mind. My dream was to play in the Pac-10.”;

It seemed like a foregone conclusion Bennett would end up a Cougar. As a senior at Newport High, Bennett was named the 2008 Bellevue Reporter Male Athlete of the Year. He was first-team all-conference in football as a safety and second-team all-conference in basketball.

Baseball was no different as Bennett led his team to a state championship as a sophomore and was a four-year starter for the Knights, a rarity at that school.

Living the life all high school athletes dream of, Bennett's world was suddenly turned upside down in one frightful outfield collision in his second-to-last game of the season.





        » Who: The Citadel (5-1) at Hawaii (4-4)

» When: Tomorrow, 6:35 p.m.; Friday (doubleheader), 3:35 p.m.; Saturday, 12:05 p.m.


» Where: Les Murakami Stadium


» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5


» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM


“;I ran into a guy in the outfield and lacerated my kidney and hurt my spleen,”; said Bennett, who spent four days in the hospital. “;I was out most of the summer and that changed things.”;

Bennett wasn't able to play again until July and opted to go to Tacoma Community College rather than walk on at Washington State.

“;Things just got real hectic and I thought it was the best route to go to a junior college,”; he said. “;Tacoma was always there for me and it was already August, so I decided to go there.”;

Bennett settled in at Tacoma and hit .391 his first season. He was all set to return for a second season to get his associates degree when a late call from Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso suddenly changed things.

“;I met up with Trap at the end of the summer and worked out for him and made a deal,”; Bennett said. “;I made my final decision a day before school started.”;

Hawaii's outfield was already crowded with four returnees who all had significant playing time last season and two talented incoming freshman in Breland Almadova and Kalani Brackenridge.

However, it didn't take long for Bennett to lock down the starting spot in right field. Through eight games this season, Bennett leads the team in hitting at .433 (13-for-30) with two doubles, a home run and a walk-off RBI single to defeat No. 10 Oregon State.

“;Pretty good for a guy we got at the last minute,”; Trapasso said. “;I just think he's going to be real good for us. When he puts that swing together, the ball comes off his bat different and he's got some juice.”;

Although it's not what he envisioned growing up, Bennett feels he is playing ball at the right place.

“;It seems like a blessing in disguise,”; Bennett said. “;Now that I'm here I feel like I made the right decision.”;

Hawaii is 4-4 after a four-game series against Oregon and Oregon State. After a series against The Citadel beginning tomorrow, Hawaii hosts Southern California, the third of four Pac-10 teams UH will play this season.

“;That was one of the things that brought me here,”; he said. “;I saw the schedule here and I thought, 'Dang, I'm practically playing in the Pac-10.'

“;A lot of Pac-10 schools are in the top 25 for toughest schedules, so it's cool to see a team from the WAC in the top 25 for its schedule.”;