June 11, 2000
by Brett Sowell
Brett Sowell is the online marketing manager for ClemsonTigers.com and a former Assistant Sports Information Director at Clemson. In 1996, as a graduate assistant in sports information, he traveled with Clemson to the College World Series. Over the next few days he will share some of his experiences from that exciting trip.
1996 College World Series Memories Tigers Were On Omaha’s Doorstep In 1999 The 1996 College World Series Was Also The Media World Series
I am not sure of the exact date, but it was sometime in September of 1996 that Kris Benson stopped by to see me in the sports information office. He said, “Brett, I want you to come to the baseball field, there is something I want to show you.”
It had been probably three months since I had seen Kris. Three months since I experienced one of the most exciting and rewarding weeks of my life. Three months since the College World Series.
As I mentioned in a previous story, for me the College World Series was the Media World Series. The presence of Benson and teammate Billy Koch made sure of that. Not to mention the fact that the Major League draft was the same week as the CWS.
During our time in Omaha interview requests were endless, especially for Benson since he was projected to be the first pick of the draft.
On one of our off days before the draft I had Benson and Koch sit down with the media in the food court of our hotel in Omaha. The players ate Taco Bell while the media hurled question after question at them.
I was thankful and lucky that both players had very good media savvy. Their personalities were very different, but I had a good relationship with both. Benson was very serious and methodical both on and off the field. Koch was a prankster and a guy his teammates loved being around because you never knew what he was going to do or say.
An example of Koch’s unpredictability came that day in the hotel meeting with the media. One of the reporters was asking him about being drafted by Toronto, who he is now a closer for.
The reporter said, “do you know how to speak French.” Koch often shoots from the hip, so without hesitation he responded, “no, but I know how to French kiss does that count?” The reporters howled with laughter as I stood in the background and shook my head in amazement.
Finally draft day arrived. The Major League draft isn’t like the drafts of other sports. There isn’t the hoopla and live TV coverage that the NBA and NFL drafts receive.
Since Benson was projected to be the number one pick of the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates I had talked with the organization quite a bit. If the expected was going to happen they wanted me to make sure Benson was available to talk with the local Pittsburgh media via a conference call.
The night before the draft I told Benson to let me know as soon as he heard something.
The morning of the draft I received a call from the Pirates. They told me it was going to happen. Benson called me five minutes later. He said the same, I tried to act like I didn’t already know.
When we arrived at Rosenblatt Stadium, a representative from the Pirates awaited Kris with about 12 hats with the Pittsburgh “P” in hand. Benson, his family, the Pirates representative and I headed to one of the stadium’s clubhouses. From there Benson talked with the media on a cell phone. I had the only camera, so I took snapshots of the activities.
Benson and his family wore the caps as I took snapshot after snapshot. Unfortunately, NCAA rules forbid Benson and his family from keeping the caps until the Clemson baseball season was over, the caps went back into the box they came out of.
Koch was taken as the fourth pick by the Blue Jays and I was happy for them that day as large signing bonuses awaited both.
During that 1996 season, Benson and I spent a lot of time together between interviews and waiting on interviews. During one of our conversations, he told me what his dream car was, a black Nissan 300-ZX. The signing bonus paid for that for him and that is what he wanted to show me on that day in September of 1996.
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