New Salt Lake Bees pitching coach Erik Bennett has been here before.
During his playing days he spent the better part of four seasons in the Pacific Coast League, including a 17-game stint with the Salt Lake Buzz in 1996.
Bennett, a right-hander, claims he didn't throw all that well that season (he went 3-1 with a 6.37 ERA) but had a good time in Utah.
Upon his return as a coach with the Bees, Bennett said Franklin Covey Field looked the same as it did 12 years ago.
Some things, though, have changed. Instead of housing farmhands from the Minnesota Twins, Salt Lake switched its affiliation to the Angels in 2001 an organization Bennett knows well. He is entering his 13th season as a player or coach for the franchise.
Bennett has spent the past six years coaching pitchers in the minor leagues. He developed future Angels at Cedar Rapids in 2003-04 and Rancho Cucamonga from 2005-06. Last season, Bennett worked at double-A Arkansas.
"It was exciting to get this new opportunity to come here," said Bennett, who has coached six of the 12 pitchers on Salt Lake's opening-day roster. "A lot of the guys I've had before, so it should be a good fit."
Bees manager Bobby Mitchell, who worked with Bennett at Rancho Cucamonga in 2006, agrees.
"He's great. He's awesome. He knows all the players real well," said Mitchell. "He has a great relationship with them. That's huge when you have that relationship and trust because if they don't then you know it's going to be a struggle.
"I think that Erik does a fantastic job and he's very well liked," added Mitchell, who explained that Bennett has a low-key approach to things. "He doesn't get excited too much and that kind of rubs off on the pitchers. They don't get all uptight."
Nick Green, who started Salt Lake's season opener in Las Vegas, said Bennett is a laid-back guy, but he also means business.
"He gets along with the guys well. He's a funny guy. He likes to crack jokes but at the same time, like I said, he means business," said Green. "I'm kind of used to him. He knows what to expect of me and I know what to expect of him."
Teammate Nick Adenhart, considered by many sources to be one of the Angels' top prospects, has appreciated Bennett's consistency over the past couple of seasons.
"He's a great teacher. He works with his pitchers very well and understands each pitcher individually," said Adenhart. "He pounds out the idea of throwing strikes and being aggressive."
Bennett, he continued, has developed pitching staffs that follow the big club's philosophy of attacking batters and challenging them."The 39-year-old Bennett was 2-0 in a brief major league career.
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