Long time Reds scout/executive dies at the age of 89 –
By Mark Carpenter –
The baseball world this week mourned the death of long time Cincinnati Reds scout and executive Gene Bennett, who passed away on Aug. 16 at the age of 89. Bennett, who was from the Portsmouth area, was a special assistant to the general manager with the Reds from 1992-2011, but will perhaps be most remembered for his time as a baseball scout with the Reds, responsible for the signing of such Reds greats as Don Gullett, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, and Paul O’Neill.
Bennett is also associated with the “one that got away” in Reds history. In 1992, he recommended to the Reds that they draft a shortstop by the name of Derek Jeter. Reds GM Jim Bowden unwisely went against that recommendation and with the fifth pick, drafted outfielder Chad Mottola, and the rest as they say, is history.
In the official Reds press release announcing Bennett’ death, President and CEO Bob Castellini stated, “Gene was one of the game’s great scouts. He loved baseball, loved his team, and forever changed the way we look at talented players. He will be missed.”
General Manager Dick Williams added, “ Gene has been part of the Reds family for more than 60 years. His legacy touches not only our organization but also the baseball scouting fraternity. He made countless contributions to the success of our proud franchise.”
Numerous Adams County residents have had interactions with Bennett over the years and according to Judge Alan Foster, Bennett made many trips to the county working as a basketball official, along with his partner Dick Hyland.
Peebles resident Gary Browning, who has been around the game of basketball for decades, remembers Bennett.
“I was in the same officials chapter with him in Portsmouth,” Browning recalled. “He always was very good at helping out the young officials and was an excellent rules interpreter. I remember him telling us once that when ‘you receive the ball, expect defense.’”
Wheelersburg High School gives away a Gene Bennett Scholarship and current North Adams teacher/Athletic Director was the recipient of one of those awards when he graduated from high school. Also, every spring there is a Gene Bennett Baseball Classic Tournament held at Branch Rickey Park in Portsmouth and Peebles graduate Brady Johnson played in that game. His mother Stacey recalls, “Brady had the privilege of playing in the Gene Bennett Classic when he was playing for Post 23. Before the game, Gene and Al Oliver gave the team a big pep talk.”
Most everyone who came into contact with Bennett came away with the same impression as Chase Armstrong.
“I met him at an Outback Steakhouse in Ashland, Ky. In 2011,” says Armstrong. “He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”
Manchester head baseball coach Dustin Cook also has fond memories of Bennett.
“Mr. Bennett was a huge member of the community of Wheelersburg where I grew up,” says Cook. “He was very visible and approachable around the community and the ball park. He volunteered his time to come and talk to kids in the community at the ball park from youth ball through high school. I can remember him coming to our high school baseball games and giving the team words of inspiration. Of course, my favorite thing was getting to see his World Series rings.”
Bennett’s list of awards and accomplishments is a long one and in the Reds press release, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin may have summed it up best when he spoke of Bennett after Gene’s 2011 retirement.
“Gene not only is a great scout, as anyone in baseball will tell you, but he is also such a wonderful person. He will be missed by everyone in the game.”