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GSU alum starts his MLB career
022009 GSU BASEBALL 03
Former Georgia Southern catcher Griffin Benedict pumps his fist after throwing out a Presbyterian base runner in the second inning in this Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 file photo at J.I. Clements Stadium. Benedict was promoted to the role of bullpen coach for the San Diego Padres last weekend. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Griffin Benedict always dreamed of playing in the big leagues.
    The former Georgia Southern catcher and 2009 16th-round draft pick never thought it would happen so soon. He also never thought it would happen the way it did.
    Today, as the San Diego Padres prepare to take on the St. Louis Cardinals on opening day, Benedict will suit up to take the field.
    The organization put him on staff as the bullpen coach — not a bad place to land after being cut from the Class A Fort Wayne TinCaps.
    “I’m trying to get to the big leagues,” said Benedict over the phone Wednesday. “The organization was honest enough with me to say, ‘Look, we have other players that we see as big-league players.’ So we talked about possible coaching opportunities — possibly going down to the Dominican and helping out. Then, in the same conversation, they mentioned that they had a spot open up in the [Padres] bullpen.”
    Benedict had a big decision to make — continue to work in the minors, or go straight to the majors as a bullpen catcher.        “I took a couple days to think about it,” he said, “and decided it was a better option than trying to fight it in the minors for a couple of years.
    “They gave me the option of staying around and trying to make the team like everybody else, but the minor leagues recommended me to the big club to learn at that level.”
    Benedict flew out to San Diego Sunday when he accepted the position — after the Padres didn’t give him much time to think it over.
    “I had one day to accept the fact that my playing career was over and try to make a decision whether I wanted to stay in baseball,” Benedict said. “After some thinking, it became pretty clear that this is a great way to stay in baseball. It just took a couple days to get used to.”
    It’s something Benedict has thought about before.
    “I’ve always thought about how bullpen catchers have the sweetest life ever,” he said. “I never thought I would be here so soon.”
    Benedict will assist with pregame warmups and relievers in the bullpen, as well as helping out with anything else the organization asks him to do.
    The biggest thing on his mind, though, is the thought that he will be on the field in a Major League ballpark on opening day.
    “Even though I’m not going to get any hits, I’m not going to throw anybody out, it’s going to be exciting to be on that field,” he said. “It matters most late in the game just to be there and help out, just be a part of the team.”  
    First pitch for the Padres is today at 4:15 p.m. in St. Louis.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.