The news that 2018 will be Hawk Harrelson’s final season in the White Sox broadcast booth dominated attention Wednesday night on the South Side.
But along with that comes the news that Jason Benetti received a multi-year extension with the team, and once Harrelson’s time officially ends next season, it will be Benetti who will be the play-by-play voice of the White Sox rebuild.
Benetti is already in his second season calling White Sox games, something he's alluded to as a dream job. But as the franchise begins a new chapter on the field, a new chapter in the broadcast booth will still be in its first few years.
“I am excited to see this team grow, I really am,” Benetti said while talking to the media Wednesday. “This is unbelievable timing considering the guys in that spring training clubhouse for the first time are there right around when I got there, so I can watch them as they grow as the fans will and get to know them from Day 1 and to do that with this new batch of players is an outstanding opportunity.”
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Of course, Benetti, who grew up watching the White Sox play, talked about his fellow broadcasts, Harrelson and Steve Stone as joys to work with. And he continued to reflect, much as he did ahead of last season, on what a special opportunity this is for him.
“This is amazing,” he said. “And to do it in conjunction with Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone, guys you’ve watched for years and know what they do and there is a part of them inside of you, it’s pretty cool.
“Like I said when I got the job, the odds of something like this happening even for five games are so infinitesimally small that if you pin your life hopes to something like that you’re probably going to be disappointed. But yeah there is a piece of me that says you never think that this is going to happen, you actually lose the idea that it could happen considering what you see as an adult. And somehow it did.”
For the White Sox fan base as a whole, Harrelson’s exit will be bittersweet. There are many who loved laughing along with a man who is an entertainer as much as a play-by-play man. There are many who didn’t necessarily love his style, something that doesn’t bother Harrelson, who laughed Wednesday about receiving fan mail telling him that he stinks.
Count Benetti as a fan, though, someone who learned an important lesson from Harrelson that he’s applied to his own broadcasting career.
“The learning started years ago just watching baseball games. I used to go around elementary school doing a Hawk impersonation. I can (now), but I won’t,” he said to laughs. “He’s such a wonderful entertainer and person who loves the game so much, and to not feel that as a kid would mean I had a heart of stone. He is such an entertainer and lover of the game. To grow up watching Hawk made me realize you can have fun on the air and enjoy the game for what it is and beyond.”