Diamond 9: Hillcrest & Arkansas Razorback standout Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett-Arkansas card

One of Springfield’s top pitchers in the late 1980s, a guy who pitched in the College World Series and for Team USA, Doug Bennett counts three tremendous influences in his baseball career: the late Dick Birmingham, Dave Davis and Norm DeBriyn.

In order, Birmingham (MSHOF 2002) was Hillcrest High School’s much-respected baseball coach for 25 years and co-founder of the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association; Davis led the Hornets to American Legion and MSHSAA state titles; and DeBriyn led the University of Arkansas baseball program for 33 years, taking four teams to the College World Series.

Now the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame will soon recognize Bennett for his stellar career, as it will present the former pitcher with a Diamond 9 award during the annual Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company.

It’s set for 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 25 at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield. Sponsorship tables of eight ($400), head table tickets ($100), and individual tickets ($40) are available – along with congratulatory ads – by calling 417-889-3100.

Doug Bennett-Hillcrest 1

The Diamond 9 awards presented by B.J.’s Trophy Shop consist of former high school, college and pro standouts who made a positive impact in the sport.

“The highlight of my career was not necessarily any one game or one moment,” Bennett said. “The highlight was that I got to meet a lot of wonderful people that became life-long friends, and I had the opportunity to visit many incredible places that I wouldn’t have been able to on my own.”

Bill Virdon Baseball inductees-collage

Bennett’s award is part of the Hall of Fame’s baseball celebration: A 9 a.m. unveiling of a larger-than-life bronze statue of West Plains native and former Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon is set at the Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive. Afterward, five individuals will be inducted at the baseball luncheon:  Mark Bailey (Glendale High School/Missouri State/Houston Astros), the late John Donaldson (Glasgow HS, Negro Leagues), former Westran, Sturgeon and Jamestown high school baseball/softball coach Kelly Odneal, sports writer Rob Rains (Kickapoo/St. Louis media), and Mark Stratton, the former coach at Glendale High School and Drury University.

Doug Bennett-Hillcrest-4

A 1988 graduate of Hillcrest High School, Bennett helped the Hornets win two state championships under Davis – the 1987 American Legion title and a 1988 title in MSHSAA. Bennett was an All-State pitcher his junior and senior seasons, including the 1988 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year.

Bennett then pitched three seasons for the Arkansas Razorbacks, becoming the Southwestern Conference Newcomer of the Year in 1989 when he helped Arkansas reach the College World Series and finish No. 5. Bennett later was a 1990 First Team All-American and a two-time All-Southwest Conference pick.

Doug Bennett-Team USA 2

He also was part of the Team USA Juniors who won the 1989 World Championship and the 1990 Team USA Seniors who won the Goodwill Games. Bennett was drafted twice, by the New York Mets (12th round, 1988) and Los Angeles Dodgers (fifth round, 1991), then pitched two years in the Dodgers’ farm system.

Doug Bennett-Yakima Bears

“The late Dick Birmingham was never a direct coach of mine, but I spent many summers at Mickey Owen Baseball School where he was an instructor,” Bennett said. “One of the greatest coaches at any level that I have ever been associated with. He was a first-class person with incredible knowledge of the game and also a superior motivator.”

Davis also played a pivotal role.

Doug Bennett-Hillcrest 2

“Coach Davis was a wonderful guy with a very positive attitude that was really a lot of fun to play for,” Bennett said. “He has great knowledge of the game and truly made practice and games fun experiences. And he knows more baseball trivia than anyone that I have ever met.”

DeBriyn readied him for pro ball.

“Norm DeBriyn was my college coach at the University of Arkansas. He recently was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame,” Bennett said. “Great coach and man. He had a great work ethic with impeccable integrity.”

Doug Bennett-Arkansas 2

Overall, the Diamond 9 features: Doug Bennett (Hillcrest High School/University of Arkansas), Dan Bishop (Springfield Central High School/Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees), Jack Funderburk (Southwest Baptist University), Chelsea King Goodin (Strafford High School/Drury University), Kellie Becher Kessler (Missouri State University), , Danny Powers (Carl Junction High School/University of Central Missouri/Minnesota Twins), Kyle Rapinchuk (Branson High School/College of the Ozarks), Stefanie Standley (Lamar High School/University of Missouri) and Michael Vincent (Hollister High School/John Brown University/Phillips University/Cincinnati Reds).