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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball’s Justin Behnke is making an immediate impact

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Savannah Douglas
UA Baseball vs Portland 3.9.15

He wishes he was a little bit taller, and he wishes he was a baller. At least that’s what his walk-up song says.

“I actually didn’t choose that song; someone else chose it for me at South Mountain,” Arizona center fielder Justin Behnke said. “Everyone just loves it, and everyone says it works for me, so I just kept it.”

What if he wasn’t a little bit taller and a baller? He wouldn’t be part of the Arizona baseball team this year and his contribution would be missing.

After junior Scott Kingery transitioned to second base, it was Behnke who was chosen to take his spot. The junior college transfer had to fill big shoes in the outfield.

“Justin has done a great job; he has really played a solid defense and has gotten some big hits for us here and there,” Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez said. “He does a great job. He is like a double leadoff hitter for us between him and Kingery.”

Behnke said he still hopes to improve on his defense for the rest of the season. However, to his teammates, he is already someone to look up to defensively.

“He is definitely a leader by example, and he is definitely someone in the outfield who we look up to,” Arizona right fielder Jared Oliva said. 

Oliva described Behnke as a soft-spoken person, which is hard to believe since he was raised in a family of all men, besides his mother. 

“I like it, and it’s a lot of fun, but I know my mom has always wanted a girl,” Behnke said. “She’s the only girl in the whole family. Even our dogs are males, and she complains about having male dogs, too. But I think she likes it at the same time, and she gets to watch us play baseball.”

Behnke described his family as a “baseball family.”

His father played ball, his uncle played ball and his older brother pitched at Grand Canyon University.

Leaving South Mountain Community College was not a difficult task for Behnke. 

“I miss the friends I made there, but other than that, I like it here a lot,” Behnke said.

He also hasn’t found it difficult to adjust to the change from junior college to Division I baseball.

“I think the biggest difference is just that everything is faster,” Behnke said. “The pace and the practices here are faster, but other than that, it’s all the same so far.”

There is something, however, that Behnke has experienced that he didn’t encounter during his two years at South Mountain: making national headlines. 

Being the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top-10 plays was probably the best reason for him to pick up communication with people from community college whom he hadn’t talked to for a while.

“I was getting calls and text messages from friends and family and basically everyone I know,” Behnke said. “My phone was blowing up, and after, like, an hour, I couldn’t go to bed, just because everyone was trying to talk to me.”

It’s no question that Behnke has made an impact on this year’s Arizona team. He’s hitting .375 and has tallied six RBI’s this season.

Behnke is the type of player who will let his game do the talking.

“Communicating in the outfield is when he will be loud, but besides that, he gets the work in and doesn’t try to do too much.” Oliva said. 

The team is not even half way through the season, but when it comes to Behnke, Lopez is certain about three things.

“He’s a good guy to be around with, he plays hard and he’s fun to coach,” Lopez said.

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Follow Rose Aly Valenzuela on Twitter.

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