God and good fortune helping TJ Bennett at the Bandits
IT is fair to say TJ Bennett's experience Down Under has been well worth it, while encountering some good fortune along the way.
You only have to look at a short period of time the versatile Brisbane Bandits right fielder spent in Melbourne recently, for proof.
The American import - looking for a contract to get back into the US minor leagues - just happened to be in the Victorian capital for the ABL All Star game two weeks ago.
His dad Jim Bennett - the Bandits' pitching and third base coach - was on the World All Stars' coaching staff, and TJ was there with him.
Some Canberra Cavalry players could not play in the fixture because of a cancelled flight due to inclement weather, so Bennet happened to be on the spot to receive a call-up to the World All Stars team.
And he starred in his team's 3-2 loss, with three hits from four at-bats.
It also took a bit of good fortune to get the charismatic 23-year-old to Australia this summer.
"My dad coached in Perth last year, and so when he got the opportunity to come to Brisbane we definitely thought it could be a possibility that I could come out," Bennett told APN.
"As the season developed here (Bandits coach) Dave Nilsson and my dad started talking.
"Dave started asking about me, and it just kind of worked out."
It's fair to say Bennett's time in the ABL for the first-placed Bandits is also working out rather nicely.
He has the impressive average of .407 from 27 at-bats in 13 games, with 11 hits and four home runs.
And he was the joint winner of the Player of the Week award for last round, alongside Perth starting pitcher Nick Veale.
The Bandits swept the Sydney Blue Sox last round, Bennett going five-for-12, with six runs scored and three extra-base hits over the four games.
Bennett also flashed his brilliance in the outfield, making a diving catch in the third game of the series.
He believes the success he's had Down Under has come from enjoying himself, and not worrying about securing that next sought-after contract.
"I think I've played extra desperate my whole life. This might be the first time I've come out not feeling extra desperate and just relaxed, trusting that God has a plan for me," he said.
Reflecting on his All Stars experience, Bennett couldn't help but smile.
"The opportunities I've been getting out here have just come from nowhere, it's been crazy," he said.
"I went out there expecting to just watch the game. My mum was in town, and we were just going to go watch because my dad was coaching.
"And then they came up and said 'hey, we need some more players'.
"Their (the Cavalry players) flight got cancelled because of the weather, it was crazy stuff.
"So going into that I was like 'just have fun'.
"The success was a bonus. Just getting to be there was a really cool experience."
Bennett said the steadfast support of his father Jim - who has extensive coaching experience in the US minor leagues - has helped him reach his dizzying heights at the Bandits this summer.
"He's my best friend and a guy I respect more than anybody," Bennett said.
"He's been a professional coach for as far as I can remember. He knows my game more than I do sometimes.
"Getting to play with him here has been the first time in my professional career that our careers have crossed paths.
"That's been awesome coming into the dugout and hearing some feedback from a guy that I trust and respect."
And without Bennett's unwavering faith in God, he said none of this good fortune would have come his way.
"It's what drives me. It's the thing that keeps me going, and I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for God's grace," he said.
"I truly believe that he's got me here for a reason, and everywhere I go I'm just trying to share that love with other people."
The Bandits' next four-game series is away to the last-placed Melbourne Aces, starting tonight.
"They're a good team. Everyone in this league is pretty good this year," Bennett said.
"I've heard people say that this is one of the tightest races as we go into the final stretch.
"I think with our team, if we can go and do what we know we can do - it doesn't matter who we play."