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Interview Series: A Discussion with Marvin Benard on Life After Retirement

Marvin Benard was born in Mina Rosita, Nicaragua. In 1982, his family fled war in Nicaragua and came to Los Angeles, California, for a better life in the United States and to protect Marvin from being drafted into the military at 12 years old. After graduating from high school in Bell, California, Benard was drafted […]

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Marvin Benard
Marvin Benard

Marvin Benard was born in Mina Rosita, Nicaragua. In 1982, his family fled war in Nicaragua and came to Los Angeles, California, for a better life in the United States and to protect Marvin from being drafted into the military at 12 years old.

After graduating from high school in Bell, California, Benard was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, but he turned them down — instead wanting to play college football. When that didn’t work out, he returned to baseball and attended El Camino Junior College for his first year. He transferred to Los Angeles Harbor College as a sophomore, and then again to Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. The San Francisco Giants then drafted Marvin Benard during his senior year. He signed with the Giants in 1992 and made it to the big leagues in 1995.

Several years after Marvin Benard was done with baseball, he returned to school so he could set an example for his children. He went back and earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology graduating May, 2017.

Post-retirement from his playing days, Benard served as a hitting coach for the San Diego Padres organization in 2015. He then managed the Nicaraguan national team in the 2016 World Baseball Classic qualifier. Marvin Benard has since made his way into the booth as a color commentator for select MLB baseball games for Spanish radio.

Benard has received numerous accolades over the years. Since retiring from playing, he has been inducted onto the San Francisco Giants Wall of Fame, the Lewis-Clark State College Hall of Fame, the Los Angeles Harbor Junior College Hall of Fame, and The Nicaraguan Hall of Fame.

Over the years, Benard has travelled all over the world thanks to baseball. Now in his leisure time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, taking out of town trips when his daughter isn’t in school or playing soccer, and watching movies. He’s also a huge fan of college football.

Marvin Benard and his family currently live in Auburn, California.

1. What led to your decision to move to the broadcasting booth after successful careers both on the field as a player, and more recently as a manager?

I still get to be involved in the game, but now I get to see the game from a different point of view. I get to analyze things, and I get to be a little bit deeper when it comes to numbers. Not playing, you get to see match-ups from a different point of view. When you’re playing, there are certain match-ups that you don’t pay attention to because in no way does it concern you. However, when you’re managing the game, you have to keep paying attention to the match-ups. Everything that happens in the game is on you because you are the manager.

From the booth, you can see it and analyze it, but it’s not your responsibility. You can talk about it without being stressed about it because whether it comes out right or wrong, it has nothing to do with you. You also get to see things from different angles. From where I’m sitting, everything slows down, as opposed to being either in the game or managing in the game. When I’m sitting in the booth, I get to let it play out and then I get to talk about it.

2. What keeps you motivated?

I love the sport. I love baseball. There have been a lot of people in my life who have helped me get to where I am and where I’ve been. My motivation is to help somebody get through whatever their goals may be. If it’s a kid that’s trying to make a high school team, or a college team, or trying to get into the big leagues, if I can have something to do with that, it makes me feel like I’m paying back for what people did for me.

3. Who has been a role model to you and why?

When we first got here to this country, I watched my mother wake up at 4 am every day to take three buses to get to work. Then after taking three buses back home, she would still go into the kitchen and make sure she cooked all of us something good. That always stuck in my head; her getting up in the morning and never complaining about anything. I never heard her say I don’t want to go to work today or I can’t believe I have to take three buses. Playing baseball, I didn’t feel like I had the right to complain after what she had been doing and what she was going through in order to put food on our table. She was my main role model.

4. What are your first memories in baseball?

In the town that we lived in, Mina Rosita, it was a small town where everybody knew each other. There was one baseball field in the town. Almost all of the dads worked at the same company, and after work, they would go down to the baseball field for practice before going home. I can remember when I was about four or five; I’d get home from school, do my homework, and then my mom would get me dressed in my shabby clothes that I could get dirty. Then I would go to the baseball field to hang out with my dad and my friends. So, I can remember going to a baseball field since I was about four or five and coming home covered in dirt, but it was a great time. All of the neighborhood kids were there. Those are my first memories.

5. With a 162-game season, how did you maintain a solid work-life balance?

That part is kind of hard. It takes a lot of extra effort. You go on the road, and there are times that you miss your family, but you’re doing what you have to do. The freedom is a little bit nice though, don’t get me wrong. Then when you’re playing at home, it can be a little bit more stressful, but at the same time stress relieving when you have kids, and they’re young. You got to the ballpark, and you’ve had a bad day, things didn’t go right for you at the game, and you made a couple of errors. In your mind, you feel like the reason your team lost the game.

When my son was four or five years old, and I came home, I became just “Dad.” He didn’t know that Dad just made the error that cost us the game – he’s just happy that Dad is home. Well, sometimes Dad showed up at home stressed out and tired, but my son at that age didn’t care about that either. He just wants to go to the park and hit a baseball, or play catch with his Dad. So, despite being stressed out and tired, Dad finds the strength to be able to go to the park, and then eventually the negatives just kind of fade away because you realize that your son doesn’t care about how bad your day was. He’s just happy to see you and thrilled that you’re spending time with him.

Then you also have your wife at home, and by taking the kids to the park, it gives her some time to do her own thing. Let her relax right now until the kids go to bed. Then you two will get your alone time to sit down and talk.

6. Tell our readers about your time managing the Nicaraguan National Team in the 2016 WBC qualifier. How did the opportunity arise?

That was pretty special for me because not only did I get to go home, I got to manage a national baseball team. The opportunity came about because the head of baseball in Nicaragua is someone I’ve known for a long time. We even played together in Nicaragua.  At first, when he brought up the idea of me managing the team, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but he insisted I would be fine. I had already coached minor league baseball, managed younger kids doing travel baseball with my son when he was 14 and 15. I’ve thrown a lot of batting practice, and taught kids how to play the game.

So, my friend tells me, “Look, you know the game, and nowadays the game has changed to be more about the relationships that you have with the players.” He said, down here in Nicaragua, some of our managers have forgotten what it’s like to play the game. What that translates to is they jump on the players and start screaming and yelling at them for their mistakes, which means the managers themselves have forgotten that they made those same mistakes and didn’t like it when people yelled at them.

For me, my approach is different. My approach is to talk it out. If someone makes a mistake, do they understand why they made a mistake? So, after sitting down and talking to my friend about things like that, it made my decision a lot easier. I went down and did it, had a great time, and it was awesome.

7. What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten, and who did it come from?

My coach at Lewis-Clark State was named Ed Cheff. He just flat out said, “I don’t want 99% of you. I want 100%. If you have 100% to get me, I need 100%. If you’re at 99%, why are you keeping that one?”

So instilled in me was always “go hard, and work your butt off”. When you’re in the weight room, work hard. When you’re on the field, you work hard. So, when I played, that’s the way I played. If I made a mistake, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort. Sometimes my mistakes were from being too aggressive when making a play where I could have held back a little. However, it was that advice that helped me get there because I played aggressively. I just focused on making the play, which was a big reason I got to the big leagues.  So that would be the advice that I’ve never forgotten. If you’re going to do it, do it right, and give 100%.

8. What’s one piece of advice you would give to a 16-year old Marvin Benard?

When I graduated from high school, there were several decisions I had to make. Where do I go now? People were pulling me from every direction, and I was stressed out about it. I remember sitting in my dad’s car and just crying because I didn’t know whom to ask. I didn’t have a mentor who had been in this position and who could guide me the right way. I mean, I had plenty of people that I could talk to, but they were just giving me generic stuff that I had thought about already. So I just sat there, scared. I didn’t know which decision was the right one and how to go about it.

So, I would go back and say, “Hey, relax kid. You’ll be okay. Just trust your heart.”

9. Who have been some of your mentors in your transition to radio?

That would be Erwin Higueros, who is a play-by-play announcer for MLB baseball games on Spanish radio. I got to know him early in my career because I was still playing when he started doing radio for the Giants. When the opportunity came up to go into the booth, he called me and said, “Hey, look, there’s an opportunity for you to do this. What do you think?”

At first, it was the same thing as managing the Nicaraguan National Team – I said I didn’t think I could do it. I said I didn’t think I could criticize what the players are doing. Erwin told me, no, you’re not criticizing it, you’re just talking about what they’re doing. You’re just trying to breaking it down for the listeners. When I still wasn’t sure, he told me to come and try it out. Afterward, I asked what he thought, and he told me I just need to find my style and figure out what works best for me.

So, I would say Erwin was the biggest influence. Not to mention, he knew I loved the game. He told me, you’re not going to want to leave, and it made sense. Again, as I mentioned earlier, you’re still involved in the game, you see things, and you can foresee something’s coming. When you can foresee it coming and then give comments about it, and then the manager ends up doing exactly what you said — it’s really cool.

10. If you could field a team of Latin-born players from any era, who would be in your starting 9?

Catcher – Tony Peña

Pitcher – Juan Marichal

First baseman – Orlando Cepeda

Second baseman – Roberto Alomar

Shortstop – Tony Perez

Third baseman – Pedro Guerrero

Outfielders – Roberto Clemente, Vladimir Guerrero, George Bell

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