Gene Bennett, the legendary scout who urged the Cincinnati Reds to draft Derek Jeter only to have his pleas fall on deaf ears, died Wednesday in Portsmouth, Ohio at 89.
“Gene was one of the game’s great scouts,” Reds owner Bob Castellini said. “He loved baseball, loved his team and forever changed the way we looked for talented players.”
Bennett was a senior special assistant to Reds general managers from 1992 until he retired in 2011. He began scouting in 1958 and was promoted to supervisor in 1975. His notable signings included Don Gullett, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Jeff Russell, Charlie Leibrandt and Paul O’Neill.
In 1992, the Reds had the fifth pick in the amateur draft and chose outfielder Chad Mottola over Jeter, who went next to the Yankees and began his Hall of Fame career.
“They said, ‘The Cincinnati Reds take Chad Mottola,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, the Cincinnati Reds just took Babe Ruth, too,’ ” Bennett once said. “Then real quick I heard them say, ‘New York Yankees take Derek Jeter,’ and I said ‘Holy cow!’ ”
Mottola played 35 games for the Reds.