Broadalbin-Perth catcher Brodryk Benton, left, crouches behind home plate as Amsterdam’s Trey Ausfeld, right, steps into the batter’s box Wednesday at Shuttleworth Park. Both athletes had long roads to recovery from serious injuries suffered two weeks apart.
By ADAM SHINDER
For the Express
Last October, Broadalbin-Perth’s Brodryk Benton fell victim to the nasty rash of season-ending injuries that beset area quarterbacks during the 2016 high school football.
Benton suffered injuries that could have cost him the remainder of his sophomore year as an athlete — a badly broken right leg.
When he was hurt, it was entirely reasonable to expect that the area would be without one of its most promising young baseball players for most, if not all, of the 2017 season. But when opening day rolled around, Benton was on his teams’ starting lineup and has been playing ever since like he never missed a beat. On Wednesday and Friday, Benton faced off against Amsterdam’s Trey Ausfeld, who also suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament but made it back on the starting lineup. They were on opposing sides during a pair of games between Amsterdam and B-P at Shuttleworth Park, both making an impact.
Benton’s injury was far more grisly and decisive. While playing middle linebacker in the waning minutes of B-P’s Oct. 14 loss to Johnstown, the sophomore shot towards a gap to try and disrupt a Sir Bills running play. While running at full speed, a blocked teammate rolled into Benton’s legs.
Benton’s leg snapped and he had to be taken from the field in an ambulance. He spent the next 10 days in a full-leg cast before undergoing surgery and being fitted with a splint below his knee.
“I didn’t think anything was gonna happen,” Benton said. “There’s three minutes left in the game, and you think it’s gonna be over quick, but things happen.”
Both athletes faced uncertain time frames for recovery that they were determined to beat. Ausfeld’s initial prognosis was around six months, placing his return sometime in the middle of baseball season. Benton’s estimated recovery time was a little more varied, as with broken bones it’s more about giving the injury time to heal than working to strengthen a repaired muscle, as is the case in ligament injuries like Ausfeld’s. He was told it could be as long as eight months, but was determined to beat that. Ausfeld, who plays in a knee brace, said he still feels twinges of pain from time to time, but is progressing.
Benton didn’t even wait for baseball season to get back to action. He was back on his feet by the end of basketball season and played a few games for B-P’s junior varsity team, and was ready to go when baseball practice began.
“The big part was baseball, but my goal was for basketball, just to get back into the regular frame of mind that I’m used to,” Benton said. “I’m normally going, going going. Not being able to do anything it’s a weird change, so I just wanted to get back to anything I could to get back to normal.”
“I didn’t have any rehab, basically,” he added. “It was all on my own. It wasn’t that bad. It was just learning how to walk and run again.”
Benton’s coach, R.J. Pingitore, knows the feeling of an injury costing significant time off a high school athletic career. During the 2009-10 basketball season, his sophomore year at B-P, Pingitore blew out his knee going up for a layup against Johnstown. It was a torn ACL, and it cost him both the rest of the basketball season and his entire sophomore baseball season.
Though his path to recovery was different from Benton’s with his broken leg, Pingitore understood the desire his sophomore catcher had to get back to full fitness — which could verge on overzealous at points.
“One of the first days of practice, I was angry about something and had the team run, and I see this kid (Benton) hobbling at the back of the bunch. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’” Pingitore said. “This kid’s running down-and-backs, and he’s not really supposed to be pushing it to the limit. But, that’s the one thing he said when we had our first individual meeting. He said, ‘Coach, I don’t want you to take it lightly on me. I’m full go, I’m a competitor.’”
Pingitore believes Benton will only get stronger as the year goes along and he gets more comfortable putting pressure on the injured leg.