"We'd always go out back when I was a kid and throw tennis balls," said Andrew Benintendi. "He'll tell you that he was throwing them pretty hard. He would call himself, 'The Big Texan.' I don't know why, but it kind of stuck and he's been kind of my hitting coach, I guess, growing up. I never really had an instructor or anything."
Fittingly, the rookie left fielder for the Red Sox will be in Texas on Father's Day playing on Sunday Night Baseball against the Astros and facing the type of pitching that "The Big Texan" tried to prepare him for all those years ago.
When "The Big Texan" memory was relayed to Chris Benintendi, there was a chuckle.
"Funny," said Chris Benintendi. "Brings back good memories. After Andrew would get some good swings in, I would summon 'The Big Texan' to come in and heat things up. The first pitch would invariably go behind Andrew's back. In thinking back, the name was likely a reference to the big fireballer from Texas, Nolan Ryan. It seemed back in the day Ryan was the only guy who could bring it to the upper 90s or even 100 [mph]. Now those guys are all over the MLB. Of course, my impersonation of Ryan was topping out at 62 [mph]."
During Andrew's formative years, Chris did his best to prepare his son to not only reach his dream of playing in the Major Leagues, but succeeding at it.
Andrew Benintendi estimates that his father coached his teams from age 8 to 13.
"More than anything, he stressed the mental side of the game," said Andrew Benintendi. "It is what it is what you do when you play, but he would teach me just to mentally stay there. That's probably what he preached the most."
Clearly, it rubbed off. When you see Benintendi on a daily basis in the Red Sox's clubhouse, it's all but impossible to tell if he's on a hot streak or a cold streak or just chugging along. The expression on his face hardly changes.
"I think my impact on Andrew, probably more than anything, is just the emotional part of things, handling success and failure," said Chris Benintendi.
Though Benintendi now has two hitting coaches he works with on a daily basis in Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez, "The Big Texan" still keeps in touch regularly.
"He'll usually text me after a game," said Andrew. "When I was going through that rough patch a couple of weeks ago, he would just give me little reminders. Nothing serious. He would tell me I was getting out in front and things like that. Nothing too serious."
One of the big thrills of this season for Chris was going to Fenway Park for Opening Day and sitting in the front row of the Green Monster Seats at Fenway. Andrew had the biggest hit in that win for the Red Sox, a three-run homer.
"It was a day we'll never forget," said Chris. "It was a great time."
Chris Benintendi was able to push his son while also striking the right balance.
"He's awesome," said Andrew. "He's been involved in pretty much everything I've done, whether it be baseball, basketball or whatever. He's just been involved and supportive all the way through."