To the Editor:
Lynn lost one of its best with the passing of Ron Bennett. To call Mr. Bennett one of a kind is the highest praise, and he should be missed dearly.
My appreciation for Mr. Bennett comes from a point of view far different from those fortunate enough to grow up in the city during the decades in which he coached, and more importantly educated, thousands of student-athletes, and also likely differs greatly from the perspective of rival coaches and players.
The interactions I had with Mr. Bennett first came about while I was breaking into the newspaper business as a freelance sports writer for the Item under the tutelage of renowned sports editor Paul Halloran.
I was assigned to cover Lynn English baseball in the spring of 1997 with advice on the way out of the old Exchange Street building that I had better be on top of my game. From the first game I covered — dominated by the late Leo Estabrook, who had about the nastiest slider you’ll ever see thrown by a high school pitcher — until I left the Item as assistant sports editor for a gig at the Boston Herald, an opportunity to be at the same field or in the same gym as Mr. Bennett always brought with it the same thought: Man, I wish I had been afforded the chance to play for this coach.
The more I learned about Mr. Bennett’s hard-nosed, old-school ways of coaching and teaching his teams to be better players and people, the more I liked him. No matter how tough Mr. Bennett was on his players, each one has to be better for it.
I felt privileged to sit and talk with Mr. Bennett at great length. He didn’t have to give me the time of day. Here I was, an outsider from Weymouth with exactly zero knowledge of the Lynn sports scene other than what I had read in the Item. Instead of blowing me off, he was instrumental in helping me find my way in the local sports scene. We had great discussions of sports and non-sports topics in person or by phone, and they all started with his asking by name how my wife and kids were doing. That personal connection meant a lot to me. My son’s first real baseball was given to him by Mr. Bennett.
Here’s hoping Lynn is afforded another decades-long coaching run by someone with Mr. Bennett’s dedication to what the student-athletes are to become, not just what they are in the moment.
Karl C. Zerfoss