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Bennett Classic this weekend in Portsmouth

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

PORTSMOUTH — During his 58 years with the Cincinnati Reds, Gene Bennett spent most of his time looking for talent.

Now Bennett is helping to bring the talent to him with the second annual Gene Bennett Baseball Classic for players 18-and-under to be held Thursday through Sunday at Branch Rickey Park, Portsmouth High School baseball field and Portsmouth West High School field.

“My goal with this tournament is to let the youth of our Tri-State area see the future stars of major league baseball and to let the little guys know that they have a baseball past, present and future,” said Bennett.

Bennett retired from the Reds’ organization this year after 58 years as a scout and administrative executive. He signed numerous former major league stars including Don Gullett, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Paul O’Neill, Dave Tomlin, Charley Leibrandt and Jeff Russell.

Gullett and former major league hitting star Al Oliver — a Portsmouth High School graduate — will co-host the tournament with Jeff Brown serving as the tournament director.

The tournament will consist of six top amateur teams in the country including the Ohio Warhawks who have won 11 national championships and have had more than 200 players drafted by major league teams such as Brandon Phillips, Ken Griffey Jr., Brian Roberts, Pat Burrell, Chris Carpenter and Larkin.

The local team in the tournament is the Portsmouth Legion Post 23.

“In my 58 years of scouting I am proud to bring this high-profile amateur baseball event again to the Portsmouth area,” said Bennett. “The tournament is expected to draw many college scouts and professional baseball scouts.”

Opening ceremonies will be at 5:45 p.m. Tursday at Branch Rickey Park. All area Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia area little league organizations are invited to attend the opener and be on the field in uniform for the opening ceremonies.

The league with the most players in full uniform will receive a $500 award payable to their little league organization courtesy of Jeff Brown Medical Services, Inc.

The general public is invited and there is no charge for admission. Concessions will be available and all proceeds will benefit the athletic program of the hosting facility.