Jon Benchich could have just gone home to Lancaster after he graduated from York College back in 1995.
The Manheim Township graduate, however, elected to remain in York for one primary reason — baseball.
“I love the baseball around here,” Benchich said of his days playing in the historic Central League. “I loved the teams I was playing on.”
Those teams included Pleasureville, Manchester, Stoverstown and Mount Wolf over 19 outstanding seasons.
Benchich, an outfielder, finished his time in the Central League in 2009 with a .332 career batting average, which spanned nearly 500 games and more than 1,600 at-bats.
In addition to those lofty stats, Benchich was also regarded as one of the best teammates by his peers. Benchich played anywhere he was asked, sometimes even while he was injured.
Hall of Famer: Benchich’s playing days ended in 2015 with the Hallam Express of the rival Susquehanna League, but he's still earning baseball accolades.
Benchich recently earned an honor that he'll cherish for the rest of the his life.
Along with Stoverstown manager Tim Thoman, Pleasureville skipper Rex Meyer and former Mount Wolf standout Jeff Kemper, Benchich will be inducted Saturday as part of the 2017 class of the Central League Hall of Fame.
“It’s just an honor to be in there,” Benchich said. “So many memories.”
Benchich will be presented by Terry Golden, his friend and former manager at Hallam.
Greatest memory: Benchich recalled his greatest single-day memory as the time his Mount Wolf club won the Tom Kerrigan Colonial York Tournament back in 2006. He can recollect the details of that day as if it were yesterday.
“There was a hurricane that came through the weekend before,” he said. “We did get some games in, but we had to come back the following week (after Labor Day). We played Long Island when they were loaded. They had a whole bunch of former minor leaguers and a few ex-major leaguers. They had Wilson Delgado, who had just been suspended by Major League Baseball from the Mets for like 100 games for steroid use, and he hit a home run in that game that cleared the right-field fence and I still don’t think it's landed.
"And they had Orlando Merced, who came in from the bullpen to close it out in the 10th inning. But just a bunch of local guys came together, battled and we walked off to win the whole Colonial. It’s just a memory that I’ll never forget.”
Benchich didn’t play a part in the comeback, but he collected two hits that day, helping Mount Wolf claim a 7-6 victory.
“Just a phenomenal game,” he said. “Everyone on the team contributed. It was a packed house at Manchester and I remember that if we lost that game we’d have to play them again and they were shipping in pitchers left and right from New York. Andy Srebroski just threw his heart out that game. Just unreal.”
Enjoying time away from diamond: While baseball has always played a big part in his life, Benchich is enjoying his time away from the diamond.
He remains involved as an ice hockey coach on the youth level. Ice hockey is also the sport of choice of his son, Darion, who is playing for the Westminster School, a prep school, in Simsbury, Connecticut, this year.
“I’m playing a lot of golf now,” he said with a laugh. “I think I only went to one game last year and I missed it, but I enjoy following my son, Darion, around now. With him up in boarding school playing hockey, we don’t get to see him as much as we want.”
The wear and tear of playing is also considerably different since he hung up his cleats.
“My body just feels a lot better,” he said. “The arm just seemed to kill me at the end of the year and now it just feels so much better.”
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