Athlete of the Issue: Benji Axelrod ‘22
“Cougars on 3, Family on 6.” After every practice and game, the Barrack baseball team comes together and shouts these words. Benji Axelrod ‘22 calls the team a “family,” noting that this particular group of guys is “special.”
A lefty that can play almost anywhere in the field, Benji Axelrod ‘22 has been an impactful member of the Barrack baseball team since 9th grade. However, there is one particular position that Axelrod excels at: Pitcher. Throwing a 65 MPH fastball and mixing in a cutter and changeup in 9th grade, Benji was a good pitcher; however, he wanted to become great. Over the next two years, Axelrod would not stop working on his pitching. Aaron Heller ‘22, a friend of Benji’s since kindergarten, notes, “I always see him putting in the extra work after practice with his coach in order to perfect his pitching, so when the season comes along he can [play to] the best [of] his ability.” As a result of this hard work, Axelrod now throws a consistent 76-80 MPH fastball, and added curveball and changeup to his arsenal. He feels as though he has “grown an incredible amount as a ball player,” and his play on the field backs it up. Already, Axelrod has thrown a complete game shutout, recording 14 strikeouts. He currently holds a great ERA (earned run average) and continues to dominate opposing batters.
Benji’s favorite thing about pitching is “definitely” striking people out. He feels as though it “gets me going” and he enjoys “feeding off the intensity of it.” When Axelrod is throwing, he gets “very enthusiastic,” and hopes that his enthusiasm can help energize the rest of the team. On the mound, the southpaw has a “next play mentality.” When his teammates make an error, Axelrod does “not get down on the whole team,” instead, he focuses on the next play and keeps his head up. Axelrod understands that if he is thinking about the previous play, it will negatively affect him against the next batter. Benji also recognizes that this mentality is just as important in life, using a math test as an example. “Let's say I don’t do well on a test. I can move on and focus on how I’m going to do better on the next one.”
When Axelrod is not pitching, he is a very energetic and supportive teammate. While he pitched a complete game shutout this season, Benji states that his favorite moment as a Cougar was when Ilan Gordon ‘21 hit a home run against Malvern Prep. Heller remarks that his favorite part of having Benji as a teammate is his “enthusiasm and work ethic.” Hunter Kimmel ‘22 loves playing with Benji as he “always wants to be the best player he can be and always wants to make sure the team succeeds.” On and off the pitcher’s mound, Benji will always support others and give full effort 100% of the time.
If you’re ever in the batter’s box and facing Benji Axelrod, good luck -- he will probably strike you out.