Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Chicago White Sox new play-by-play man Jason Benetti, who was born with cerebral palsy

White Sox TV job a 'dream come true' for Benetti

The White Sox television booth got significantly younger and, in due time, potentially better Wednesday with the part-time addition of play-by-play man Jason Benetti, a south suburban Homewood-Flossmoor graduate who rooted for the Sox as a kid before his broadcast skills calling college basketball and football and minor league baseball.

Benetti, 32, was hired to call 78 home games and three road games as Ken Harrelson, 74, cuts his workload to 78 road games and three home contests in 2016. Count color analyst Steve Stone, 68, who along with Harrelson agreed to a multiyear extension, among those hailing Benetti as “an absolutely great hire by the White Sox organization.”

Brooks Boyer, Sox vice president for sales and marketing, sees a high ceiling for Benetti, in his view “one of the top up-and-coming voices in sports television.”

“Jason is a very good broadcaster right now. He has the opportunity to to be an elite broadcaster,’’ Boyer said. “He is smart, funny, hard-working and has a passion for the game, his craft and – most importantly – for the fans. My hope is that he connects quickly with the fan base, which I think he will because he is one of them.’’

Benetti’s rise to the Sox booth is a local-kid-makes-good, “surreal” and “dream-come-true” story, as he put it Wednesday.

He was born with cerebral palsy.

“The way I look or walk is such a small part of who I am as a person,” Benetti said. “I like to joke that fortunately, I chose a profession where all I needed was my voice, not my legs. I have always felt that if I can help one other person, or if I can help change one person’s attitude about how they perceive others, then I have made a positive difference.”

Benetti is a voice for the CP community and part of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation “Just Say Hi” campaign launched last year. He graduated from Syracuse University and has a law degree from Wake Forest.

“The daily difficulties [of CP] are really limited to a misstep here and a stumble there,” he said in a recent interview. “Some people who meet me may note that my shoes are more worn than the average person’s because of my gait. I’ve chosen a profession in which the way I walk doesn’t directly affect my performance.

“I’ve been floored by the respect producers, directors, camera people, sound people and everyone else has given me. To me, they don’t even see a disability.”

Benetti has worked as a college football and basketball play-by-play voice for ESPN since 2011, and did five years of play-by-play work for the AAA Syracuse Chiefs, an affiliate of the Washington Nationals, through the 2014 season.

He will continue to work at ESPN, but that could change as Harrelson edges closer toward retirement. With a multiyear contract, Benetti will be groomed to assume a full-time role.

Benetti will pair with Stone for all 2016 Sox home games on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, WGN-TV and WPWR, with the exception of the home opener April 9 vs. Cleveland and the two home games against the Cubs July 25-26. Benetti will work three away games, at Toronto in May. His first live action will be during spring training on a date to be determined.

“One of the things that Hawk told me was be yourself,’’ Benetti said. “I was grateful he said that because when the person you are going to be sharing a home and road both with, when he tells you to do that, there’s something really comforting.

“I know people have their own styles and you are just going to be yourself and you have to refine that. But at some point, you decide this is who I am, what my personality is, this is what I like to do a game like and then you just get behind that.’’

Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson will return to the radio booth as the Sox transition to 890 WLS-AM. Connor McKnight will take over as host of pre-game and post-game radio shows.


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