FGHS ALUM JAKE BENNETT: ON THE OUTSIDE, LOOKING IN
Hard work. Overcoming obstacles. Achievement in the face of adversity.
These virtues form the foundation of any life or athletic success story, and all are prevalent in the story of Forest Groves Jake Bennett.
Bennett is an exceptional athlete. While at Forest Grove High School he won two state wrestling championships, was an all-conference linebacker on the football team and earned first-team all-league, first-team all-state and Pacific 8 Conference Player of the Year honors as both a junior and senior. But in spite of his success, the player and person former coach Kevin Tucker called easy to be a fan of has had to work for everything he now has and will continue to do so in route to the goals he hopes to achieve.
I learned at Forest Grove the mentality that youre not going to be gifted anything, Bennett said. Youve got to work for it.
So in spite of his high school success, including batting over .500 both his junior and senior years, Bennett received nary a Division-I scholarship offer. If he wanted to achieve his goal of playing Division-I college baseball, hed have to go to work.
Bennett ended up attending Western Nevada College, a community college in Carson City, Nev., where while not what he had hoped for he started down the path toward his goal of big-league college baseball.
It was a little disappointing not getting any bigger offers, said Bennett. But once Western Nevada came along, I knew it was my road.
Yet, even that wasnt easy.
His first year at Western Nevada, Bennett was asked to redshirt by his coach.
It was hard at first. But I took it as a
challenge, he said. I had to prove I could play at that level.
And he did.
As a freshman in 2014, Bennett hit .324 with
a .448 on-base percentage and 25 RBI, earning second-team all-conference recognition. As a sophomore, he batted .398 with 36 RBI, while swiping 17 bases and earning Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors enough to gain the attention of various Division-I programs, and more importantly, one of the offers he coveted most.
I always wanted to play for an Oregon school, Bennett said. So when they offered me a scholarship, it was big-time.
The University Of Oregon offered Bennett a scholarship, which he accepted, and when he arrived it was to a familiar situation: a view from the outside looking in.
He didnt crack the starting lineup until the 15th game of the season, but once inserted remained there until seasons end, leading the team in batting average and playing a pivotal role for a team competing for a Pac-12 Conference title.
Stepping up to the Division-I level was another challenge for Bennett, but one like his initial experience at Western Nevada he faced head-on.
Its been a lot of fun, he said. Its what I expected. Theyve treated me really well here, and its been a great experience both on and off the field.
While he still has a season left to play at Oregon, Bennett hopes his playing career doesnt end there. An opportunity in professional baseball is his goal, and hes been fortunate to see a couple of
his teammates make that
Two recent Oregon graduates, outfielder Austin Grebeck and shortstop Mark Karaviotis, started professional careers this summer, Grebeck for the Single-A Tri-City Dust Devils and Karaviotis with Hillsboros Hops.
I talked with them when they played in Hillsboro a couple weeks ago, said Bennett. Its cool to see them playing for their job.
Bennett knows its a tough road, but one hed love to try and tackle.
I hope to have my name called in the draft, he said. Absolutely!
Jake Bennett is a great athlete, but his success on the field hasnt come easy. Hes earned his success and in the process earned the respect of the people whove helped him along the way.
The greatest thing about coaching and knowing Jake is that his success is organic, said Tucker, his former coach at FGHS. Its been earned daily, grinding it out when no one else wanted to. Ive admired his ability to overcome the obstacles that have come his way.
Tucker and Bennett have history to prove it.