Jackson Benattar, a junior center fielder at Crespi, is batting .607. His grade-point average is 4.2. In what might have been his final baseball game for 2020 on March 11, he went four for four against Mission League favorite Harvard-Westlake. Add to that, he lost his beloved 24-year-old cousin to drowning in Oklahoma, having to fly on a Saturday to the funeral after playing in a game on a Friday.
If any teenager should be feeling sorry for himself in this time of social distancing, no sports and closed schools, it should be Benattar.
“Life is not fair right now,” he said.
And yet, Benattar is gritting his teeth, logging into his computer, grabbing his dumbbells and preparing for whatever lies ahead.
“Live the moment,” he said. “Control what you can control. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Expect the unexpected.”
He’s taking classes online from home, chatting with friends, staying in touch with his teachers. Then, when studying is done, he works out at home or goes to the park, where is father, Rick, a producer with a movie on hold, is throwing batting practice to his two sons.
“It’s not canceled for sure yet but doesn’t look too good,” Benattar said of the spring sports season that appears on hold until at least May at the earliest. “I’m just waiting for coach to call, ‘We’re playing in May. I hope you’re ready.’ If he needs me, I’m ready. If not, I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just trying to get better academically, physically and baseball wise.”
These are strange times for Benattar and many teenagers. For one, they’re spending more time with their parents and dogs than anyone imagined while being restricted to their homes.
“Literally, everything has changed,” he said. “Yeah, I’m going crazy. I wish I was back in school with everyone. The gym is a nice place to go. It helps you escape.”
But fitness centers are also closed.
The death of his cousin motivated Benattar to dedicate himself to academics. Christopher Compton went to MIT and majored in neuroscience. Benattar was born in Oklahoma, left at age 3 but returned every year to visit with him. “He was an amazing young man,” he said. “I’ve been doing everything for him, working harder, studying harder, everything for him.”
Benattar is convinced his baseball season was no fluke. He had been lifting weights five days a week, taking batting practice and making great improvement after doing little as a freshman or sophomore. This was his breakthrough junior season. Except it’s on hold and the concern is how to show college recruiters it was real.
“I’m just trying to get seen, trying to play baseball at the next level,” he said. “That’s the dream.”
There are many in the same predicament. For now, Benattar is doing what he can control. Continuing to study. Continuing to work out on his own. Continuing to live life while waiting for the all-clear sign.
It will happen, and he’ll be ready when it does.