St. Charles East graduate Wes Benjamin enjoys his time with the Wiz
Baseball is a universal language, a catcher's signs to a pitcher a shared dialect.
That definitely helps St. Charles native Wes Benjamin.
The left-handed pitcher, who spent parts of two seasons with the Texas Rangers and part of a third with Triple-A Charlotte in the White Sox organization, recently concluded his most successful professional campaign, with the KT Wiz in Suwon, South Korea.
In regular-season games, all starting appearances in his second year with the Wiz, Benjamin went 15-6 with a 3.54 earned-run average. In 160 innings he allowed 149 hits and struck out 157 batters, leading the club's staff in victories, games started and strikeouts.
"Any time you get over 10 wins they pretty much love it," said Benjamin, 30, who returned to his Elgin home Nov. 16. "That's not always a thing you can control, so I was very lucky I had a good-hitting team."
Case in point, Benjamin's Game 3 start in the Korean Series, the Korean Baseball Organization's version of the World Series.
With the series tied 1-1 against the LG Twins, on Nov. 10 Benjamin paced a 4-3 lead through 5 innings. He came out to pitch the sixth but after allowing a runner was relieved. The Wiz went on to lose that game, and the series.
"Obviously I wish I could have done more, but at that point it is what it is," Benjamin said.
Yes it is.
A 2011 St. Charles East graduate who pitched three seasons at Kansas before the Rangers took him in the fifth round of the 2014 Amateur Draft (thanks, baseball-reference.com), Benjamin said the KBO offers a different type of challenge.
There's more emphasis by batters on making contact than on launch angles and dingers, like in the States.
"From a pitching standpoint it can be frustrating because the (batter) will foul off every one of your best pitches until he finds something he likes," Benjamin said.
But it sounds fun. Even regular-season games are like "one big party," Benjamin said, and it ramps up in the playoffs.
Three foreign players are allowed on each team, with a maximum of two allowed on the field at one time.
Arriving with the KT Wiz in May 2022 after being released by the White Sox, Benjamin went 5-4 with a 2.70 ERA in 17 starts his first season there.
He's been learning to speak Korean to gain camaraderie with teammates. They rib him, saying he's at the level of a 3-year-old.
"I'm completely fine with that," Benjamin said. "I've got my Starbucks order down."
Married three years this Dec. 11 to the former Brittany Brueske, Wes believes the Wiz is interested in signing him for 2024. Major-league ballclubs may also be interested, he said.
"I'm in a good position," Benjamin said. "To be able to have options is great, but I loved everything about it and would definitely go back if given the opportunity."
In the first basketball game of her junior year on Nov. 13, a 54-14 win over Earlville at IMSA, West Chicago point guard Jasmyne Trigueros surpassed the 1,000-point mark. She's a three-sport athlete, also playing volleyball and softball.
In a 59-47 win over Lockport on Nov. 17, Montini junior point guard Nikki Kerstein scored her 1,000th point. The Deerfield High School transfer was an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association second-team all-state pick last season as a sophomore.
In a 67-42 win over Phillips on Nov. 22, Stevenson senior Emory Klatt grabbed her 1,000th rebound. The DePaul-bound forward joins only former pro Tauja Catchings (2,001 points, 1,184 rebounds) as Patriots girls to reach both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
At the Naperville Central Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 24, Batavia senior guard Brooke Carlson scored her 1,500th point in a 59-26 win over Oswego. The Colorado State commit followed with 34 points in a 70-63 championship loss to Kenwood.
On Nov. 27 at home, Lisle senior guard Crystal McHugh, a returning Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area pick, scored her 1,000th point in a 46-45 loss to Coal City. She's the fifth Lions girl to reach the mark and the fastest to get there, 62 games.
Following 28 town hall meetings statewide, on Nov. 27 the Illinois High School Association Legislative Committee advanced 14 of 23 bylaw-change proposals to a vote of member schools.
Among them are proposals that would:
• Establish districts in football determined by geography and classification;
• Allow a preseason football scrimmage with another school;
• Eliminate the boys gymnastics season and contest limitations, or calendar; and
• Establish a fall girls flag football season.
Member schools will vote online Dec. 4-18. A simple majority vote is needed for denial or for proposals to go into effect on July 1.
Red Grange Bowl
Two-time defending NJCAA Division III champion College of DuPage will host Rochester (Minnesota) in the third national football championship at the Red Grange Bowl, noon Saturday at Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium in Glen Ellyn.
It's a battle between Nos. 1-2 among NJCAA non-scholarship teams. The COD Chaparrals reached 10 wins for the first time in 28 seasons, including a 24-21 win over Rochester on Sept. 2.
Tickets are $10 at the gate. The game also will be streamed on ESPN+.