KSU's Pentecost wins Johnny Bench Award as nation's best catcher
by Jeffrey Lutz
The Wichita Eagle
June 28, 2014 12:29 AM | 1616 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Max Pentecost accepts his award from its namesake, Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
<br>The Wichita Eagle/Fernando Salazar
Max Pentecost accepts his award from its namesake, Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
The Wichita Eagle/Fernando Salazar
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WICHITA, Kan. — Max Pentecost hasn’t yet signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, who drafted him earlier this month, but he already has a major-league resume.

The Kennesaw State catcher started his eventful year by winning the Most Outstanding Prospect award last summer in the Cape Cod League, an honor previously bestowed upon the likes of Mark Teixeira, Chuck Knoblauch and Robin Ventura, among many other alumni of Major League Baseball.

Three weeks ago, the Blue Jays drafted Pentecost 11th, as Kennesaw State was in Louisville, Ky., preparing for its first NCAA super regional.

And on Thursday, Pentecost won the Johnny Bench Award as part of the annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet. Eight of the top catcher award’s previous 14 winners have reached the major leagues, and some recent winners are on the same path.

Pentecost, who emerged from a group of finalists that included Mississippi’s Will Allen and Indiana’s Kyle Schwarber, is trying not to mentally hasten the possibilities opened up by his last 12 months.

“I’m really enjoying this,” Pentecost said. “It’s only going to be here a little bit longer, then my career is going to continue in pro ball. I’m just trying to take this in, soak it up, and make it last. Whatever happens next is in God’s control, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Pentecost became the fourth-highest draft pick to win the Bench Award, following Florida State’s Buster Posey, the fifth pick prior to winning in 2008, and No. 3 picks Jeff Clement (2005) and Mike Zunino (2012). All three have major-league experience.

Schwarber was picked fourth this year by the Chicago Cubs, but not even a season in which Schwarber ranked in the top 10 nationally in home runs, runs and slugging percentage could overshadow Pentecost.

In leading Kennesaw State to its first NCAA Division I postseason appearance, Pentecost led the nation with 110 hits and was second with a .423 batting average and 164 total bases. He ranked in the top 20 in several other offensive categories while throwing out 34 percent of base-stealers.

“Just coming up here, people ask me where I’m from. I say Kennesaw State and they’re like, ‘Y’all had a really good season,’” Pentecost said. “I think it really put our team on the map, and it shows that any (team) can do it. Even looking at our future teams, it’s possible. The opportunity is there.”

Though he was drafted in the seventh round out of high school, Pentecost went on to college and became an elite prospect in the Cape Cod League, which annually features many of college baseball’s top players in a wood-bat setting.

After batting .346 there, with six home runs, 29 RBIs and a .538 slugging percentage, Pentecost reached a new level in the spring, raising his batting average 121 points and developing more power. He was the Atlantic Sun Conference player of the year and a Louisville Slugger All-American.

Pentecost was a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy as the nation’s best player, but he lost out to Kentucky pitcher and first baseman A.J. Reed.

“The whole summer in the Cape, it’s definitely the whole reason I’ve been able to do what I have this year,” Pentecost said. “I became a much better player, person — matured a lot while I was up there, and I mentally became stronger. That’s what I was missing to begin with to make things easier and better.”
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