Being a left-handed pitcher can have its advantages.
If you want proof, just ask St. Charles' Wes Benjamin and Zach Hirsch, who were among the 1,215 picks selected during the 3-day Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft that concluded Saturday.
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Benjamin, who recently finished his junior season at the University of Kansas, heard his name called Friday afternoon as the Texas Rangers selected him with the 156th pick of the fifth round.
"I had no idea it would happen that early," said Benjamin, who underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm in April. "I figured I had all day to myself (Friday) and then I got a call from my adviser saying I might get picked in the third round.
"I was out running with my girlfriend, Brittany, so I quickly went home and started watching the Draft with my dad."
Unfortunately, he didn't hear his name called in the third round.
"I'll admit it was a little bit of a letdown," said Benjamin, who was a 2-time all-conference player at St. Charles East before attending Kansas. "But my adviser called and said it might happen in the fifth round. I was told 10 picks prior (to being selected) that they would pick me. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life."
Benjamin, 20, became a weekend starter for the Jayhawks as a freshman and earned All-Big 12 Freshman Team honors after sporting a 5-7 mark and 3.54 ERA.
This past season, Benjamin was 4-0 with a 4.22 ERA in 7 starts for the Jayhawks before suffering a partial tear of his UCL during the third inning of a game against Oklahoma. His season highlight came against nationally ranked Texas when he pitched 8 2/3 innings during the Jayhawks' 3-2 victory in Austin.
Benjamin was 1 of 6 Kansas players selected in the Draft.
"Yesterday (Friday) was more my day and today is a good day for many other players," said Benjamin, who will soon report to the Rangers' spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz. "It's a great day for KU seeing some of my teammates get picked."
Hirsch, a 3-time all-conference player at St. Charles North before attending the University of Nebraska, heard his name called Saturday afternoon as the Milwaukee Brewers selected him with the 566th pick of the 19th round.
"It was kind of tough waiting but then I got a call during the 18th round saying I would probably go in the next couple rounds," said Hirsch. "I was very happy and excited to see my name pop up on the computer."
Hirsch, 23, who also underwent Tommy John surgery during his freshman year, began his collegiate career as a starting pitcher before moving to the bullpen.
This past season, Hirsch became one of the nation's best set-up men, finishing with a 5-2 record and 1.72 ERA for the Huskers. In 52 1/3 innings covering 31 relief appearances, Hirsch walked 14 and struck out 50 while holding opponents to a .193 batting average. He also recorded 4 saves.
"The funny thing is that I had never heard a thing from the Brewers until they called," said Hirsch, who was at home with his family when he received the news. "However, the area scout for the Brewers played baseball at Nebraska. I wasn't sure when it was going to happen but it's a pretty cool feeling to be picked.
They're a great organization."
Hirsch was 1 of 7 Nebraska players selected in the Draft.
Both players helped their respective teams to NCAA Tournament berths this season.
"It was awesome," Hirsch said of the tournament experience. "I had a blast and made a ton of friends during my time at Nebraska. It was a fun ride."
Hirsch left earlier this week for Helena, Montana to play with the Brewers' Short-A (season) team. Their season begins June 16.
Benjamin had a physical with the Rangers in Texas Wednesday and he'll report some time next week to their spring training facility in Surprise, Arizona for continued rehab.
The southpaw duo follow a long list of local players drafted in past years -- Chris Burgess (Philadelphia), Jeff Holm (Detroit), Matt Milroy (Miami), Casey Crosby (Detroit), Danny Jimenez (Cleveland), Kenny Smalley (Oakland), Matt Reynolds (Colorado), Jason Kiley (Pittsburgh), Chris Thedorf (Florida), and Jim Caine (Minnesota).
Reynolds, a St. Charles East graduate, is a left-handed pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Benjamin and Hirsch are eager to begin their professional careers.
"I couldn't think of a better job to have," said Benjamin.