Matt Benedict (right) made the day of young fan Tony Mendez of Pittsburgh, Penn.

Aspiring pitcher faces uphill climb to Pirates’ mound

BRADENTON, Fla. — Baseball, some say, is a young man’s sport.

St. Petersburg, Fla., native Matt Benedict grew up with the sport, following in the footsteps of his father, who played ball in college. Despite the early introduction, he didn’t become a pro ball player until 22, four years after a lot of others do, he said.

An off-season to remember

“I got engaged in this off-season,” Pittsburgh Pirates pitching hopeful Matt Benedict said. “I spent the off-season in Hickory, N.C. with my fiancée getting ready for this season.”

Today, the 25-year-old pitcher is working in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league organization, looking to make the big club.

In 2013, however Benedict looked like attaining his dream would be an uphill climb, logging a win-loss percentage of .250 on three wins and nine losses.

“I just have to control the things I can control because it’s someone else’s job to decide whether or not you go to the major leagues,” Benedict said Wednesday at the Pirates’ spring training facility in Bradenton, Fla. “You have to do everything you can do to push yourself … to be ready.”

He knows age is a factor, he said. But people twice his age have played in the big leagues.

Satchel Paige, a pitcher like Benedict, is the oldest ever to play in a Major League Baseball game. He appeared in one game for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965. He was 59 years old.

Though his main focus is baseball, it’s not his sole sport.

“I also love golf,” said Benedict. “When I’m a pitcher … I’m out there by myself and I think about executing pitches.

“The same thing out on the golf course. You have to think about executing your shot and what you want to do with your next play.”

So when does Benedict think he might get the call to the big club?

“It’s tough to say,” Benedict said. “I just do the best I can do. I hopefully eventually get that opportunity to go up there.”