After a year without baseball, Colin Bennett's return to the Cartersville lineup this season has had an effect that goes beyond his own numbers.
Purple Hurricanes coach Stuart Chester noted Bennett has a way of making those around him better. He is not alone in his recognition of Bennett's value.
Walters State Community College, a two-year school in Morristown, Tenn., seems to have taken notice, too. On Tuesday, Bennett signed with the Senators.
"I got a call from the coach [Ken Campbell], and he asked me to come up there and visit," Bennett recalled. "I went and watched 'em play on a Sunday, and they won a big game against Chatt[anooga] State. ... I got there, I saw the school. It's a bigger junior college school. The field is very nice. I just got [to] talking to the players, and they all said they loved it. They had their apartments to [them]selves. The coach just basically talked about winning. They win. They were national [champions] in '06.
"It's kind of like Cartersville, I guess. They win a lot. They're known for winning, winning all the championships."
Bennett could play a significant role in any future championships that Walters State wins.
"He's the type of kid that you build a program around," Chester said. "Put him in an offensive lineup and he makes everybody in front of him and everybody behind a lot better because, No. 1, if you bat in front of him, they don't want to put you on base because that's just more RBIs. And, behind him, they try to get out to keep from getting back to him. Just offensively his presence makes everybody in the lineup a lot better. It really was a blow for him to be injured last year.
"If we had him in the lineup last year -- 'cause that's really what we missed, that offensive threat -- I think that we might could've won the thing."
Bennett has not given any pause to that possibility, essentially making a seamless return to the field.
"To come back off his knee surgery and produce like he has from the get-go -- from right out of the gate, first few games hitting home runs -- and just to be the size and [have] the power and be as athletic [as] he is at first base is irreplaceable," Chester said. "He's gotten better every game. You would think he would be behind from the get-go because of missing a complete year due to an injury, but it's like he never missed a beat, and he's produced from Day 1."
The Canes coach pointed out that the Senators are fortunate to snag a player like Bennett.
"Well, they got a steal because with him being injured last year, he's kind of [flown] under the radar," Chester continued. "If he hadn't been injured last year, he probably would have signed Division I. I see him going to Walters State, and if he [doesn't] end up at a Tennessee, Georgia, Clemson, he'll end up in the draft."
"He's a very draftable kid because of the size and the natural power," he added of the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Bennett. "Somebody like him would be able to swing wood right off the bat."
Bennett would very much like to continue his playing career beyond Walters State.
"I hope to ... go there for one or two years, get a lot out of it. They also send a bunch of guys on to the big SEC, ACC schools, and that's just a dream -- of going to play on the biggest level, I think, [in] the SEC and the ACC," the Cartersville senior said. "They also have some guys that go into the draft, too."
Playing for the championship-caliber Canes has been a benefit that can continue benefiting the player into his college career.
"Just playing here, coach Chester's a heck of a coach. He just teaches you to give it all," Bennett said. "When I was a sophomore and winning the state, that was a big experience, and hopefully [we] do the same this year."