Sports opinion: Sometimes the best road is the less popular road

As every athlete enters his or her high school years, the majority of them do so with hopes and dreams of playing their sport or one of their sports at the collegiate level.

Having the opportunity to play a sport in college is a rare honor, as just one-out-of-every 17 high school athletes has the opportunity to play at the next level with a scholarship.

Each athlete is faced with the pressure of making the rare-feat happen and that pressure increases immensely the closer they get to their senior year.

Of course, we all make a big deal when a high school student-athlete verbally commits and signs to play at a Division I major college and we should.

For a 16, 17 or 18-year-old in the Oklahoma City area, to be recruited to play their sport at the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University is an incredible opportunity and it should be recognized.

However, to have that type of ability coming straight out of high school is very unlikely. Rarely do you see an athlete with the capability of a Vernon Turner or a Lane Wallace, both of whom are attending OU this coming August on athletic scholarships.

There is so much pressure on a lot of these young, high school athletes to not only play at the collegiate level but to play at the Division I level, that many times, they force the issue and either accept less scholarship money to go and play at a major college or don’t take any money at all and just walk-on with the hopes of getting a chance to prove themselves and earn playing time.

Most of the time, it doesn’t work out for the young athlete. Usually, they will sit on the bench for a couple of years and then wash out of their sport and be done when they could have gone to a junior college for a couple of years and then perhaps have gotten their shot at the major college scene.

Case in-point, is Yukon graduate Garrett Benge. Benge is the starting third-baseman for the Oklahoma State baseball team that just won the 2017 Big 12 Conference Baseball Tournament.

Benge is a junior for the Cowboy baseball team but he hasn’t always played his sport at OSU.

Coming out of high school, Benge was a great baseball player for the Millers and showed all of the tools it takes to be successful at the major college ranks.

Benge decided to take his talents to Cowley County Community College in Kansas for his freshman year of college and he flourished in the Jayhawk Conference. Benge was selected as a junior college All-American and the Pokes came calling following his first year out of high school.

In his first year with Okie State as a sophomore, Benge earned the starting third-baseman spot and helped lead the Cowboys to the 2016 College World Series. This year as a junior, Benge has had a solid year but as a team, Oklahoma State has struggled.

They had to win their final two games of the year against Oklahoma in the annual Bedlam series just to qualify for the Big 12 Conference Baseball Tournament. They did that and got into the field as the last seed.

Well, as they say, as long as you’re on the dance floor, you have a chance and that’s exactly what happened. Oklahoma State got hot at the right time and they swept through the Big 12 Tournament this past weekend and beat Texas 6-5 to earn the tournament championship.

Benge was instrumental in the Cowboy’s championship-game victory, as he made a diving play at third-base and secured the rare triple play to end a Longhorn scoring threat.

Oklahoma State looked like their season was dead-in-the-water going into the final regular season series against the Sooners and now they are headed to a regional in the 2017 NCAA Baseball Tournament.

This year, Benge has a batting average of .298 with 61 total hits, nine homeruns and 51 RBIs. There is no doubt that when his time is up at OSU, he will get his shot at the professional level.

There is no way for sure to tell how Benge’s baseball career would have gone if he had decided to pursue the Division I level coming straight out of high school but one thing is for certain, he wouldn’t be where he is today without his time at Cowley County Community College.

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