Lions’ Benzinger steps down as baseball coach

By Garth Shanklin - Sports Editor

For the first time since the late 1990s, New Richmond High School is seeking a baseball coach.

Brian Benzinger will not return to the Lions next season, having spent the last 25 years with the team, 20 as the head coach. He said he felt it was time for a change, citing the length of his tenure as one reason.

“Some people don’t realize this, but I’ve been doing it for 25 years,” Benzinger said. “I was the junior varsity coach for five and then in 1999 is when I took over the varsity job. I’ve been here for a while. The biggest question I’ve gotten from concerned friends is ‘Are you feeling OK?’ ‘Are you healthy, are you ill?’ That’s not it. The biggest thing was I’ve done it for a long time.”

Another reason Benzinger has decided to hang up the spikes, at least at the high school level, is because of his two sons.

“I have a son that’s playing ball at Thomas More, and I don’t want to miss that,” Benzinger said. “Coaching high school baseball is a little time consuming. If you do a good job, you’re going to schedule weekends and I just didn’t feel like I’d be able to see my son play in college, and I’m really looking forward to that.”

In addition, Benzinger’s youngest son is going to be playing baseball this spring, and stepping down from the Lions gives Benzinger the chance to help coach that team.

“He’s starting baseball, he’s going to be eight years old in the spring,” Benzinger said. “He’s playing on a really good team, and I’m going to help coach that. Those things became possible if I stepped down from baseball.”

New Richmond Athletic Director Doug Foote said in a statement that Benzinger’s career will go down in the Lions’ history books.

“Coach Benzinger and the Benzinger name has been a part of Lion tradition and history for a long time,” Foote said. “Brian has been the head coach at New Richmond for 20 years as well as the assistant coach before that for five years and had an outstanding baseball career here. He will go down as one of the best baseball coaches in New Richmond history. He was a tremendous mentor to many athletes and has helped make New Richmond baseball the rich tradition that it is. When you think New Richmond baseball the Benzinger name is one that you will always think of with Brian, his brother Todd and Brian’s son Brett all [of whom] have excelled at New Richmond.”

Benzinger said he still thinks about the Lions even now, and complimented the athletic directors who have worked with him throughout his tenure in New Richmond.

“It hasn’t really sunk in, to tell you the truth,” Benzinger said. “I still think about baseball, I still think about New Richmond baseball. It’ll hit me harder in the spring, I’m sure. New Richmond is a great place to coach. Working with the [athletic directors] I’ve worked for, Pat Hill and Doug Foote, you couldn’t ask for better ADs. The principals we’ve had over the years, it’s a really good place to coach and I feel blessed to have had the chance to do that.”

Benzinger said he still thinks the Lions will be talented next season, and that sometimes change can be a good thing.

“Sometimes it’s good to let it go and see where it goes,” Benzinger said. “The cupboard’s not empty, we had a great group of seniors but there’s a lot of talent coming back. They’re going to continue success, I believe.”

During his career, Benzinger won 375 games for New Richmond, 12 league titles and three district championships. As such, he said it was hard to pick out specific memories from games.

“Without picking a single year or single game, when you watch kids work hard, be it an individual or a team, and then you see them succeed, there’s a lot of joy as a coach to watch your kids succeed after a lot of hard work and dedication,” Benzinger said. “Over the years in general, I just got a kick out of watching teams fulfill their goals, be it a league title or sectional title or whatever. It was fun as a coach to watch kids have success after a lot of hard work.”

Benzinger did note the 2009 season, a year in which the Lions finished the season as league champs with an 11-2 record.

“That team didn’t win a district championship or anything, but they had no business winning the league,” Benzinger said. “2009 is a year I’ll always remember. We were somehow able to eek out a championship.”

Benzinger also said that while he didn’t plan it, having the chance to coach his son and his group of friends the past four seasons was also something special.

“I didn’t start coaching in 1995 in the chance that I’d have the chance to coach my son,” Benzinger said. “Him coming through towards the end of my career, it was really nice to have that happen. People say that could be good or bad, but with my son and the way he is, he understood that I was going to be harder on him than anybody and he accepted that. His close friends Lane Flamm, Zade Richardson and Matthew Cox, watching those guys ever since they were born and growing up playing baseball, having a chance to coach all them was pretty cool.”

In 2012, New Richmond opened the baseball and softball facility the teams use, with former Cincinnati Red and Brian Benzinger’s brother Todd throwing out the first pitch.

“It was pretty cool,” “My brother, Todd, got to throw out the first pitch before the first game played there. That certainly sticks out.”

Benzinger also credited the team’s coaching staff for helping develop the Lions’ baseball players, and thanked everyone associated with the program for helping the team get to where it is.

“Having the chance to work with another New Richmond Hall of Famer, John Duncan, for the past 15 years or so he’s been with me…you couldn’t ask for a better assistant coach,” Benzinger said. “Mike Laub, my junior varsity coach for the last 12-14 years, he’s done a great job. Having great coaches working along side you certainly helps the overall success of the program. It’s not one person, it’s a collective group of people starting with the AD, the principal, the coaching staff, the parents and the kids. In 20 years, I’ve had very few parent problems. New Richmond really is a neat place to coach.”

Although he may not be coaching the Lions’ baseball team anymore, Benzinger did note that he’s not leaving the the school anytime soon.

“I’m still here,” Benzinger said. “I get the feeling that I have 10 or so years of teaching left in my career, and the last couple days have been ‘I’m really going to miss you’ and ‘I’m sad to see you go.’ I’m not going anywhere, I’m still here. I’m just not coaching baseball any more.”

By Garth Shanklin

Sports Editor