Hall of Famer Bench's son makes his own way

Updated: October 19, 2007, 2:42 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- When your father is a baseball Hall of Famer and a local hero, expectations and pressure can be high. Bobby Bench has learned to deal with it, and to make his own way.

The 17-year-old son of catcher Johnny Bench, a star of the 1975-'76 Big Red Machine world champions, is a backup tight end on the nationally prominent St. Xavier High School football team. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Bench decided to come out for football his senior year, after being in the marching band, playing ice hockey and twice getting cut from the school baseball team.

"No matter how well I did in baseball, it never would have made a difference because I never would have lived up to expectations as Johnny Bench's son," Bobby Bench told The Cincinnati Enquirer for a story on Friday.

"It was high school where I truly realized how much pressure is on me, having a father like mine," he said. "You're proud of your family name, but at the same time you have the consequences and the toll that takes on you."

Johnny Bench, who will turn 60 on Dec. 7, realizes the pressure his son faced and takes pride in him.

"Bobby is just a fine young man," said his father, who's been coming to St. X games. "I couldn't be prouder of him."

Robert Binger "Bobby" Bench was born a few months after his father was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The middle name is for Binger, Okla., Bench's hometown.

Bench's former wife, Laura Homan, said she's seen their son take teasing and taunting, and handle it well.

"People always expected more of him because of his name," Homan said. "Thank God for Johnny, because he never pushed Bobby into any sport."

"I said, 'Look, son, I know how hard it is for you, and you don't have to play (baseball)," Bench recalled. "His mother did a great job of helping him with that, too."

Bobby Bench wore his father's No. 5 when younger, but later started to request No. 17, for his birthdate of Dec. 17, 1989, to help avoid the razzing. In football, he's No. 91 for unbeaten St. Xavier.

A solid student who is thinking about going to college to become a marine biologist, Bobby Bench had been a drummer in the St. Xavier marching band and played for the school's hockey team. He decided to play football his senior year for a team considered among the nation's best prep teams.

Coach Steve Specht told him he would have to earn his spot, just like everyone else.

"I told Bobby he had to prove to me he was committed to play," Specht said. "I told him, if you miss anything and it's unexcused, you're done. He's done all we asked. He's worked hard, and I think he came out because he wanted to be part of something special."

Johnny Bench said one of his proudest moments came recently when he ran into the Rev. Walter Deye, the St. Xavier school president, on the sidelines at a football game.

"Father Deye said, 'I've got to tell you, you have one fine son," Johnny said. "As far as I'm concerned, I won the state championship when he said that."


Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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