Posted: 1:49 pm Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Baseball: Palm Beach Central’s Scott Benedict turns a taste of the pros into a stellar coaching career 

By Matt Porter

It was only a matter of time before Palm Beach Central coach Scott Benedict arrived here.

After 23 years as a high school coach, the veteran is eight wins shy of 500. As of Thursday, he has a 492-156 record, a .759 winning percentage.

“Oh, man,” Benedict said, after he was informed the media knew of his approaching milestone. “I try to keep that kind of stuff quiet.”

Without fanfare, Benedict has been one of the area’s best coaches in any sport for more than two decades. He’s started two programs from the ground up and sent countless players to the next level.

In 1988, he became the first baseball coach at Wellington and built the Wolverines into a national power. They won national tournaments, a state title and twice finished with a top-three national ranking. They produced four first-round MLB Draft picks in a five-year period.

Benedict would rather point you to this: 76 percent of his Wellington seniors earned a college scholarship. “I was sort of proud of that,” he said.

In 2003, Benedict took over at a new school down the road, Palm Beach Central, and has been there ever since. The Broncos have been a perennial playoff contender, advancing to the regional finals from 2005-07 and the quarterfinals in 2009-10. They went 18-8 last season.

A star catcher at North Shore High, Benedict spent two years at Palm Beach Junior College. He was drafted twice (Montreal Expos and Seattle Mariners) but chose to play at the University of Georgia. After his junior year, he was drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round (26th overall) of the 1979 June secondary draft. He signed for $6,000.

“The money was a little different back then,” he said.

Benedict’s bat wasn’t major-league-ready, but he performed well enough defensively to earn a 1980 big-league spring training invite. At Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the former home of the Yankees, he caught stars like Goose Gossage, Tommy John and Ron Guidry.

But in 1981, he tore his rotator cuff, effectively ending his career. At three minor-league stops in two seasons, he hit .185 in 190 plate appearances.

“I think my hitting would have come along,” Benedict said. “They didn’t have the surgeries back then that they do now. I was young and impatient and didn’t feel like sitting out a year, so I got into coaching.”

He was an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic and Forest Hill before he became head coach at North Shore in 1987. He was named Wellington head coach in 1988. He was also an assistant football coach at all three high schools and an American Legion coach in the summer.

After leaving Wellington in 2001, he coached for two years at the University of North Florida under Dusty Rhodes, his former coach at Palm Beach Junior College.

Like his mentor, Benedict has helped start a few coaching careers. Wellington grad and former Colorado Rockies pitcher Mark Brownson is his pitching coach at Palm Beach Central. He also has former Arizona Diamondbacks draft pick Matt Oxendine on staff. Another former player, Chuck Jeroloman, is in his first season as an assistant at TCU.

Benedict has those moments of reflection, like so many who had a taste of the pros. What if he had never been hurt? What if he played in an era with more advanced medical practices? What if he swung the bat as well as he called the game?

He may never have got into coaching. He might have caught Guidry and Gossage in August.

“You don’t forget about it, but you don’t regret it either,” he said. “You learn from it. You know, maybe that’s what God wanted me to do is just help kids. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.

“I don’t look into the future. I’m just trying to help the school and help these kids as much as I can.”

Veteran Broncos coach Scott Benedict (center) is closing in on 500 wins. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Veteran Broncos coach Scott Benedict (center) is closing in on 500 wins. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)