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West Fargo graduate not giving up on his baseball dream

Waldorf, Md. Casey Benjamin, 31, can still play. He showed that here Friday night for the host Southern Maryland Blue Crabs against the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers in the independent Atlantic League. A 1998 graduate of West Fargo, Benjamin led o...

Waldorf, Md.

Casey Benjamin, 31, can still play. He showed that here Friday night for the host Southern Maryland Blue Crabs against the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers in the independent Atlantic League.

A 1998 graduate of West Fargo, Benjamin led off the second inning with a single and then scored the first run of the game on a double to left by teammate Tanner Townsend. In his next at bat, in the third, Benjamin doubled in a run to make it 3-0 in an inning in which his team took a 5-0 lead. In the top of the fifth Benjamin made a nice stop of a grounder at first base to rob Matt Watson of Lancaster of a hit.

A pro player since 2003 when he began with the Texas Rangers, the Minot, N.D., native plays for a team with five former Major League players. Benjamin would rather be playing with a big league affiliate, but he is glad for the opportunity.

"I would say it is very close to Double A or Triple A," he said of the Atlantic League. "Most of the players have played seven, eight or nine years of pro ball. There are some former big league pitchers and they know how to pitch."

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"It is a very competitive league," added Benjamin, before Friday's game. "It is nice to be in this situation. I think this is a good place to play. I enjoy being here."

Benjamin was standing in the home clubhouse of Regency Furniture Stadium, which was built in 2008 and is comparable to modern Class AA parks in the Eastern League. In games through Thursday the lefty swinger was hitting .257 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 249 at bats. He has played 16 games at first, four at second, one at third and 47 in the outfield through Friday.

He was signed by the Texas Rangers as a undrafted free agent after playing in college at Tennessee Tech. He played seven seasons in the Texas system and played as high as the Triple A level as recently as 2009. Benjamin's best year in pro ball was in 2006 when he hit .280 with seven homers and 49 RBIs split between high Single A Bakersfield and Double A Frisco.

Last year was his first with Southern Maryland and he hit .304 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs in 112 games. "Casey is a very, very good baseball player," said Patrick Osborn, his manager this year and a teammate with the Blue Crabs last year. "He can play multiple positions. He plays the game the right way."

"He just comes out and plays hard every day," said teammate Kody Kirkland, who played at the Triple A level with Detroit and Atlanta.

Benjamin is realistic that he may never play for a big league affiliate again. "I feel I had my shot," he said.

But that doesn't mean he has given up on playing pro ball. He is single with no children and does not have to worry about supporting a family on a modest salary that is the life of a minor league player. "This is my family," he said, motioning around the Southern Maryland clubhouse. "I feel good right now. I would like to play for a few more years."

Benjamin does have his education to fall back on. He was about one semester shy of a degree from Tennessee Tech when he signed with Texas. He went back and finished his bachelor's degree and then in 2008 secured a master's degree from the school with a focus on professional studies and professional strategic leadership. His brother Kyle and sister Courtney still live in Fargo, while he lives in Tennessee during the off-season with Southern Maryland pitcher Jim Ed Warden.

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"I would like to get involved in college coaching," said Benjamin. "That would be the ultimate for me. I want to stay involved in the game." And so far he has, even though he is no longer with a Major League organization.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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