Introducing as Coach and Field ...

Introducing as Coach and Field ...

With goal of rebuilding West Springfield softball program, Rob Benton returns to the field the school named for him.

West Springfield head softball coach Rob Benton fills two roles during home games this season.

First, he's the head coach of the Spartans’ softball team and then he's the softball field.

"When they start the games, they introduce him as the coach and the field," said West Springfield Director of Student Activities Andy Muir. "It's quite funny."

In 2005, West Springfield named the field after Benton for his 20-year tenure as head coach, a run that included a 1983 state championship.

Benton stopped coaching in 1999, but when the school decided to make changes to the softball program, Muir said he thought Benton might have "an itch" to coach again.

"He came and talked to me last fall," Benton said. "He said the job is open if I was interested. I went home and talked with my wife for a bit about it. I figured the job keeps me out of trouble and gets me out of the house."

And as for coaching on a field bearing his name?

"It's a neat honor," he said. "When they do something like naming the field after you, they don't expect you to be coming back. I asked if they were going to come rip the sign down since I was coaching again?"

The sign is still proudly secured on Robbie Benton Park's press box wall, a reminder of past glory, but Benton’s mission this season isn't to turn his team into region contenders overnight.

His job is to rebuild a program that has been struggling and fallen into disarray. In 2009, the softball team posted a 3-14 record.

All but one girl from the 2009 squad graduated or left the team to pursue other interests, so Benton was left with an inexperienced pool of players.

"We're pretty much back at step one," he said. "We've got several girls that are starting this year that didn't even play softball last year."

So far this season, the team has a 2-7 record with wins over Madison and T.C. Williams.

The rebuilding project also has forced Benton to be creative with his players.

Benton asked the lone senior, and the only remaining player from the 2009 varsity team, Amy Fourney, to assume the team's pitching duties.

"I'm usually at second base," she said. "I've played that since I was little. But since they needed me to pitch, I did it."

As the team's main pitcher, Fourney said she's coping with the transition into such a vital position.

"It's really hard because I'm the only pitcher," she said. "We have a back up pitcher, but I'm the main one. It's a lot of pressure."

Fourney's experience has thrust her into the team's leadership role as well, and while she might have been timid about turning into a pitcher, she's having no trouble serving as a leader.

"I feel that I can bring a lot to this team," she said. "I know that people will listen to what I say. This year, it's a lot better because everyone is willing to listen and they take criticism positively."

Aiding Benton and Fourney in rebuilding the West Springfield softball team is the girls’ enthusiasm for the game, despite their losing record.

Rookie softball player and right fielder Carisa Chaplin said the team has accepted their coach and is eager to learn from him.

"I'm glad to have him become our coach," he said. "I heard a lot of good things about him. I heard he was a positive coach and I'm just excited for the experience of playing for him."