By Will LeBlond
After a heralded college baseball career with SUNY Oneonta, and more recently at Ithaca College, Lansing High School graduate Benji Parkes can finally take a step back and look back on his career.
Parkes, who spent the first three semesters of his college career with the Red Dragons of Oneonta, came home to begin his second spring baseball season and play under longtime Bomber head coach George Valesente. There were two main reasons why Parkes decided to return to the Finger Lakes.
“First off, I decided to change my major and my career path and I wanted to go into teaching, there really wasn’t anything at Oneonta that could help me go into PE or health,” says Parkes. “And also baseball, I was playing both soccer and baseball at Oneonta, and the two-sport thing really wasn’t for me. I decided to go find a better baseball program, and it fit.”
In playing for a better baseball program, Parkes needed to perform at that higher level on the mound for Valesente, but Parkes drew from his past with Lansing baseball coach Stu Dean to help make the adjustment. “Coach Dean was always about being resilient and working through the difficulties,” Parkes says. “And staying consistent by not getting too high or too low and I think that’s what it comes down to in the college game.”
Parkes had to ride through those waves to find consistency on the mound throughout his college career, as his stats show slow starts to his seasons pitching, but he always seemed to find a way to finish strong. “It’s always a work in progress and I think I learned to make those adjustments to get myself better by the end of the year.”
The strong finishes for Parkes helped not only him, but the Bombers as well. He was a part of three consecutive Empire 8 championship teams during his time on South Hill. That type of success is something that he has grown accustomed to after he was a part of a historic Lansing baseball team during his senior year in 2012.
Parkes played an instrumental role in the Bobcats’ 26-0 state championship team, which beat Haldane in the title game. Now that the dust has settled, Parkes and those that stayed in the area can bask in those fond memories as that group’s college years come to an end.
“I look back now and think about what we went through to win 26 games in a row,” said Parkes. “I enjoy thinking about it and reflecting on it with other guys from the team. There’s a good core of us that’s still in the area. We’ll meet up and go down to the varsity field and hang out and hit a few balls.”
The summer should hold more of those sessions for Parkes and crew, then he will start his next step after baseball, which is a teaching job in the Spencer Van-Etten school district. “Hopefully I was able to learn a few things that will help me with my next journey,” he says.
By Will LeBlond