At SABR 51 on Saturday, July 8, 2023, Chicago White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti delivered the keynote speech during the Awards Luncheon held at the Palmer House Hilton hotel.
Benetti is a Chicago native and in his eighth season as the Chicago White Sox’s television play-by-play broadcaster, working alongside Steve Stone. He also works as a national broadcaster with Fox Sports on college football and basketball, NFL and Major League Baseball games, and he served as the voice of NBC Sports’ “MLB Sunday Leadoff” games beginning in 2022. He is a part of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s “Just Say Hi” campaign. He holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, economics, and psychology from Syracuse University and a J.D. from Wake Forest University’s School of Law.
- Audio: Click here to listen to Jason Benetti’s keynote speech at SABR 51 (MP3; 32:51)
Here are some highlights:
ON ESPN’S ‘NERDCAST’ SHOW
- “I used to work for ESPN and one of the projects that I got to be a part of that was just phenomenal was the alternate broadcast for the Home Run Derby and assorted games here and there, our Statcast show with Eduardo Pérez and Mike Petriello. … That telecast was one of the great collaborations of my entire life and I miss it dearly. … In the week leading up to the game, Mike would churn out reams of information and hit us with all this stuff and we would work to distill it together. And Eduardo Pérez, one of the kindest people and most curious former baseball players I have ever encountered … he was always looking for more research, more information, and more reasons to be able to tell a story that other people just wouldn’t tell.”
ON WORKING IN BASEBALL WITH CEREBRAL PALSY
- “I have cerebral palsy. I can’t walk straight, I don’t look directly at a TV camera. … At every turn, there was some great person, somebody who vouched for me — a professor at Syracuse University who always believed in me, a guy at Time-Warner Cable who got me on TV doing football for the first time, and all of these play-by-play announcers like Ian Eagle and Bob Costas and Sean McDonough who have listened to my tape and really advocated for me. And at every turn, there’s also just a jackass who doesn’t really understand. … In college, this one kid didn’t really like me and his (message) was ‘At least he’ll be a good story in someone’s magazine someday.’ … And when I became a story in someone’s magazine, I was tempted to send it to him.”
ON USING STATS TO BETTER APPRECIATE PEOPLE’S SKILLS
- “I bristle when someone says a player is 3-10 with a 2.90 ERA and he’s having a ‘rough season.’ I hate when they say Joey Gallo is not worth any money when he has a 121 OPS+ even though he’s hitting .199. Because when you’re just the first thing people see about you, it’s reductive and awful and discounts so many qualities in human beings. … Your research, (your) advanced stats, let us appreciate everybody for the small-scale or large-scale beauty they bring to the game. … We all want to flout the numbers, we want to be different from whatever fate is supposed to bring us. The odds of me becoming an announcer are infinitesimally small. But if I walked around as a teenager with the probability of me becoming an announcer around my neck, it wouldn’t have happened. I would have lost confidence. I wouldn’t have believed in myself.”
- “As we watch baseball, we have a choice. We can use it to figure out stats, research, knowledge, to figure out what makes players incapable of something. … But the numbers, at their very best, bring out the beauty of each individual player and what makes them unique and what makes them better than expected. And this really is what my whole life has been founded on. If you discount me on the whole because of the first thing you think about me, you’re missing something. … You’re missing the human evolution that can become such a human, joyful, developmentally enlivening experience. … And that makes us all closer together. In this world, that is the best thing we can do with our time: to figure out what makes us all closer together.”
For more coverage of SABR 51, visit SABR.org/convention.
Originally published: July 19, 2023. Last Updated: July 19, 2023.