New White Sox play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti and Cerebral Palsy Foundation CEO Richard Ellenson were scheduled to meet for lunch to go over how Benetti, who has cerebral palsy, can help his foundation.
What was thought to be a quick chat between the two turned into a meal the two would never forget.
"We both put aside about 45 minutes and left two hours later," Ellenson said laughing. "It was a real meeting of the minds."
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This lunch goes to show the type of person the Sox and their fans can expect from their new announcer. It's nearly impossible to find anyone that can claim a flaw in Benetti's character or announcing.
Cubs play-by-play announcer Len Kasper called the Sox decision to hire Benetti "totally right." Legendary announcer Hawk Harrelson, who Benetti will be replacing for almost all of the Sox home games this year, thinks he can be "a hell of a good announcer."
Ellenson saw "rock star" potential immediately after their breakfast meeting and Benetti became a popular figure for Ellenson's "Just Say Hi" campaign.
"He wrote a script that meshed with who I am or who I perceive myself to be so well," Benetti said about the video. "It has a little snark, it has a little humor, it’s fun and I just love being around somebody like that who is so driven to help through the power of creativity."
Ellenson says when he plays Benetti's spot at benefits he gets more laughter from the audience than anyone else. That's especially impressive considering other videos shown included Yankees manager Joe Girardi, chef Mario Batali and actor William H. Macy.
"The look that he gives at the end of that spot," Ellenson said. "That kind of giggle is what makes him such a great sportscaster. To know not only how to deliver the line with a voice but to take it to that great place, to lead you not only to the action but to the emotion of the moment That's why he's so good."
While Benetti has watched his dream of calling games for his childhood team come true, he's remained humble throughout the process. Over the years, he's received letters from parents of kids with cerebral palsy, asking him to write or visit their child (which he does). Benetti admitted cerebral palsy is "a small part of who he is" but he wants to give kids a glimmer of hope like others have done to him as he was growing up.
"When I grew up, I didn’t have somebody with CP," Benetti said. "Walter White’s son on Breaking Bad, RJ Mitte the actor, has CP and he’s very open about it and I think that is truly amazing that there is somebody out there. So I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with a role model, quote-unquote, like that so for me it’s more of letting people know that if you have a bad day, whether it’s with a disability or whatever it may be, the option of getting better at whatever you do is there and it will always be there."
The bond between fan and announcer runs deep, as White Sox fans know with their relationship with Harrelson. In Ellenson's eyes, Benetti's best traits, his youthfulness, hard-working attitude and ability to gain the listeners' trust, make him someone that Sox fans will want to follow.
"Fans connect to their team through the voice of their announcer," Ellenson said. "When you think about that relationship, you need someone who has both the confidence to describe a game for you and to take you through the emotions of the game but also the humility to understand the story really isn't theirs. Jason has that extraordinary mixture of supreme confidence and humility.
"He knows who he is. He's comfortable with it. He's not going to give you anything but who he is."