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As Hawk Retires, Jason Benetti Fulfills Childhood Dream

By Justin Breen | April 7, 2016 5:53am | Updated on June 6, 2017 11:40am

New White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti is a longtime fan of the team. He wrote in elementary school that he wanted to become the team's announcer.

Editor's note: The White Sox announced Wednesday that longtime announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson will retire after next season and will be replaced by Jason Benetti. We are republishing this interview with Benetti from April of 2016.

CHICAGO — How many people actually predict their futures while in elementary school?

More than 20 years ago, Jason Benetti, for a class assignment at Churchill Elementary in suburban Homewood, penned a letter saying he "would like to be the White Sox sportcaster."

"Well, it happened," said Benetti, 32, who was named the Sox new broadcaster this year as Ken "Hawk" Harrelson heads toward retirement. The River North resident's first game will be Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field — Harrelson is working Chicago's road games in addition to Friday's home opener.

Sr. Editor Justin Breen shares the feel-good story of Jason Benetti

"Right now, it just doesn't compute," Benetti said Wednesday during a phone interview as he stared at U.S. Cellular Field's outfield from one of its broadcasting booths. "The first time it will compute is when I'm on the field at batting practice [Saturday] looking out at the seats I once sat in."

Benetti has loved the Sox his whole life, never having season tickets but going to tons of games a year, usually sitting in the bleachers in right or left center.

His letter at Churchill — for an assignment "What will be my life 20 years from now? — also included a small knock on the legendary late Cubs — and Sox — broadcaster Harry Caray.

"Maybe I will be a sportscaster," Benetti wrote in the letter ... "As long as I don't look like Harry Caray. I idolize Ken Harrelson and [former Sox analyst] Tom Paciorek. ... I love the whole world of sportscasting. I wonder how they do it. Maybe I will find out one day."

Benetti, like many Sox supporters, admits he does not like the Cubs, but he also stressed he doesn't "hate" them.

"It's not really possible for me to hate the Cubs, especially because I know [Cubs broadcaster] Len Kasper so well," he said. "It's not a hate thing, but I certainly never liked the Cubs.

"Going out of the way to love the Cubs has never been my thing," Benetti added. "I do think for some people, they just hate the Cubs, and that's their choice. I don't do that, but I don't begrudge anyone else for doing it because I can see why they do it. People grow up with it, and they never lose it."

Benetti isn't surprised the Sox started 2016 with two wins (before a loss Wednesday night). He felt during spring training that the South Siders would be "very competitive" this season. He noted he felt "really strongly about the way this team comes together as a unit in terms of energy."

Benetti will spend some of Friday hanging out in the broadcasting video truck near the ballpark, plus watching Harrelson call the home opener for a few innings.

"I respect him so much and how much he has affected baseball lingo," Benetti said of Harrelson. "What he says is everywhere. You talk about a legacy ... and that's a really powerful legacy."

He'll share the Sox television broadcasts with Steve Stone, whom Benetti calls "sharp" and an ideal partner.

He might be new to the Sox but he's no novice in the business. A Syracuse University alum who also holds a law degree from Wake Forest University, he's announced minor league baseball and college basketball and football. He started at ESPN in 2011, a position that has allowed him to educate people about cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder he was born with.

Still, he admits to having some butterflies about Saturday and his debut for regular-season action with his favorite team.

"It's as close to perfect as you can get," Benetti said.

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