A loud crack of the bat sends a ball deep into the heart of Dr Pepper Ballpark. It’s a hot, windless Saturday night as the ball continues to carry. However, it dies and lands into the glove of Frisco RoughRiders’ outfielder Joe Benson.
It’s been a long road for Benson who began his baseball journey in the Minnesota Twins organization. Benson was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2006 draft. He worked his way up through the organization before being called up to make his major league debut on September 6, 2011.
“It was awesome, just dreaming of playing in the big leagues since I was a little kid to going up there and the dream coming true,” Benson said. “It was absolute, complete satisfaction.”
Benson said it was surreal getting his first big-league hit off of Detroit Tigers’ starter Max Scherzer who was the starting pitcher for the American League in this year’s All-Star game.
“I had known Max when he was at the University of Missouri because I was recruited by them and he was playing for Team USA at the time,” Benson said. “Now that I look back on it, it was a pretty awesome accomplishment but I was just thrilled to get my first major league hit.”
Benson finished off the 2011 season in the Bigs and broke camp with the Twins in 2012. However, performance consistency paired with injuries held him back.
“Coming into the season, I struggled. They had to make a move so I got demoted,” Benson said. “A couple of weeks after that I broke my hamate (bone in wrist) which was another blow. I missed about six weeks with that and then coming back, I never really found my swing again.”
A knee injury at the end of the season eventually led to Benson having surgery.
“My knee had swollen up and I went in and got it looked at. I had an MRI and they saw a loose body. Going into surgery, I thought it would just be a loose body removal and I’d be out in the fall league,” Benson said. “It turned out Dr. Joyce had to go in and make a micro-fracture surgery with cartilage in my knee so I ended up being sidelined the rest of the year plus rehab in five months.”
Benson worked hard throughout the off-season building up mobility and range of motion to get into shape for the 2013 season. Despite the hurdles, he still had a shot at winning a spot with the Twins.
“I talked to Terry Ryan, general manager of the Twins, a couple of years and even though I had a rough season, they kept me on the 40-man roster,” Benson said. “I went to camp with the Twins with a chance to win the centerfield spot out of camp. I failed to perform very well and I struggled in camp and got sent to (Triple-A) Rochester, still on the Twins’ 40-man, with the plan that if I turned this around I could get called up in time.”
However, the struggles continued which led to Benson being claimed off of waivers by the Texas Rangers. He was assigned to the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.
“I was excited for the opportunity,” Benson said. “I didn’t want to leave Minnesota by any means but just knowing that another organization wanted to keep me on their 40-man roster and give me a second opportunity, I was absolutely ecstatic.”
Even though he was excited for the new opportunity, Benson said he was a little apprehensive because he didn’t know what to expect.
“I was nervous not just to be with the Rangers but here in Frisco with new guys on the team, a new uniform, and new surroundings,” Benson said. “But it has worked out well. The guys here are great. They’ve welcomed me from the beginning. I’ve been the butt of a lot of jokes because of my hot start here but everybody has been welcoming from my teammates to the front office.”
Benson had a strong start with the RoughRiders before another injury sidelined him.
“I didn’t want to tear my groin. I tried toughening through it,” Benson said. “By the time I had come back from playing in Midland, I got it looked at and I had a tear but injuries are part of the game. I wish it wouldn’t have happened because I was really into the zone when I first came here but you battle through it.”
He returned to Frisco at the end of July and is currently working with the rest of the RoughRiders to secure a playoff spot.
“I worked hard to get back. Baseball is a grind so I’m continuing to work every day trying to perfect hitting and different aspects of the game,” Benson said. “You can never be too good at anything, just continue to work hard, keep my head down and continue to play the game the right way.”