In the bottom of the seventh of the first game this season, Lindbergh starting pitcher Lane Swenson recorded two outs in his gem of a performance. He then signaled to Head Coach Benny Benavides.
“He did the number two with his hand then the okay sign twice,” Benavides said on a recent March afternoon.
The gesture was initially confusing to Benavides — who is also known as Coach Benny — as he didn’t realize the feat that he was about to accomplish. When Swenson struck out the last batter of the game, finishing his complete game on the mound, the celebration of the win was all about coach Benavides.
“He comes flying over to me and just grabs me and yells ‘200 wins, coach!’ That’s when it hit me again. I’m not that much of a rah-rah guy. We had an idea but I didn’t think about it this year,” Benavides said of the March 15 game.
Earlier this month, Coach Benavides won his 200th career game as a head coach, a special feat in the coaching world. Last season, he was at 199 wins for the last three games of the season, which ended with a tie and back-to-back losses — meaning the record would have to wait until next season.
“We knew it was coming up last year, well, I didn’t,” he said. “Everybody else did … Over the last two games last year, there were people I hadn’t seen before. And the celebration would have to wait.”
However, he did know about win No. 100. “That one I did know, but 200 came up really quick,” he added.
Benny Benavides has been involved in the Lindbergh Eagles baseball community since 1994 when his sons attended Lindbergh High School. Then in 2001, he took over as the acting head coach and remaining in the role ever since.
He initially started coaching his son’s summer team, the Renton Rebels, when they were 10 years old. Then once they started school at Lindbergh, he transitioned with them. He was first given an assistant coaching position in 1996. Benavides didn’t play college baseball, but he did play American Legion ball and high school baseball growing up.
The victory milestone is something his 2001 self wouldn’t have imagined, he said. “There wasn’t even a thought I would achieve that many wins,” Benavides said.
Currently as it stands, Coach Benavides is the only official coach for the entire program. But thanks to the quality of character the team has, he can spend time working specifically with the budding junior varsity players.
“The whole crew is easy to deal with, they do a lot of stuff on their own … I’ve been doing everything on my own coaching-wise. It’s been tough going back and forth trying to get these guys situated but varsity is helping out quite a bit. The upperclassmen are doing a good job of making sure we stay moving,” he said.
When Benavides is coaching, his passion for the game is obvious to everyone in attendance. He’s got his batting glove on, his baseball glove is always nearby and he’ll even pick up a bat at some points during practice. “I tell people I have a part-time job, this is my full-time job,” he said with a smile.
“Everybody asks me ‘How long you gonna be doin’ this?’ … They’re gonna spread my ashes out there,” he said as he pointed at the baseball field.
Participation has been hard to keep up in the baseball scene for Benavides. Since 2016, it has been difficult for Lindbergh to yield a full team, let alone have a JV team. But this season has promise; he has 34 kids in his program.
“That’s why I’m out here. Because they want to be out here. I’m not going to cut any kids, if these kids want to be out here, so do I,” Benavides said.
There are Lindbergh baseball alumni all over Washington state, even at the Major League level with Tommy Kawamura who is currently the Astros Game planning coach.
Another Lindbergh alum is Jordan Perry. He graduated in 2009 and is currently an assistant coach at Bellevue College for its baseball program and coaches a high school summer team as well. He spent a year as an assistant coach for the Eagles and it’s something he said he’ll always remember.
“It’s his passion for the game and want to see each player get better [that] makes him such a special coach,” Perry said. “He taught me that continual drive to get better, respecting the game and always making sure the players know I want to be just as successful as they want to be.”
Coach Benny is sure to have a lasting impact on all of the players he coaches; it’s his passion for the game that shines through for every player in the program.
“It’s a testament to his commitment to baseball in the area and the culture of hard work and winning the program stands for,” Perry said of his former coach reaching 200 wins.
The Eagles have already given Coach Benny win No. 201 this year in a win over Tyee. The team takes on Foster on the road April 3, as the quest for more wins continues for Coach Benavides.