Park City baseball player Ben Agnew lives charitably, swings a mean bat
Park City High School baseball coach Dave Feasler knows there are certain things he can count on senior Ben Agnew to be – a solid third baseman, a strong batter, a captain, and perhaps most importantly, a “character guy.”
Feasler said Agnew has set an example for his teammates over his three years as a varsity player in most aspects of the game, as well as in life off the diamond.
“I think guys see him perform on the field and see his work ethic and how he composes himself off the field and they are really impressed by that and try and emulate that,” Feasler said during a practice on Wednesday. “It’s almost like having another coach.”
On the field, that translates to better fundamentals – better concentration from the players, better effort and an enthusiasm for the game. Feasler said a crack from Agnew’s bat has jolted the team out of bad situations at times, like in a 5-4 victory at Region 11 foe Tooele.
“He hit a ball last week at Tooele that probably went about 400 feet, and that got us going in the bottom of the seventh inning,” Feasler said. “We’re losing 4-1; he hits a 400-foot homer, and then we went single, double, triple – that tied the game – then walk-off fielder’s choice. He sparked that. I think guys saw that happen with Ben absolutely getting into a ball and just kind of followed suit.”
Agnew, who has lived in Park City his whole life, started playing around age 8 when he joined a team coached by Matt Strader, a longtime baseball coach at PCHS. When Agnew got to high school, he started in a handful of games his freshman year, but really came into his own as a sophomore.
At that time, Agnew, naturally left handed, was a switch hitter, which Feasler did away with soon after he took over the team in 2017.
“I saw it from the left side and I really liked it,” Feasler said of Agnew’s swing. “Then I saw it from the right side at it was really bad, and so we just made him go left all the time.”
That was just fine with Agnew, who worked his way into a tenure position at third base (though he’s played shortstop, second base, and currently pitches a game a week) and a spot in the middle of the batting lineup.
“That’s really helped me,” Agnew said of focusing on his left-handed swing. “Just not having to work on both.”
The left-handed swing is now one of Agnew’s biggest strengths, and his greatest joy in the game.
“I just love hitting,” he said. “If you get out seven times out of 10, you’re a good hitter. Which is frustrating, but it’s also really rewarding.”
Agnew has a batting average of .457, has an on-base percentage of .536, and has 13 RBIs in 15 games this season. He’s hoping he can help the team (9-6, 6-2 in Region 11) make a deep run into the playoffs this year, and perhaps try for the state title that has so stubbornly eluded the Miners since the team was formed.
He is looking at a few schools on the West Coast as options to continue his baseball career once he graduates, though he is keeping his preferences under wraps for now. He has more pressing engagements.
In August, Agnew will leave for his two-year mission to Fiji with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a faith Agnew is passionate about.
Agnew doesn’t anticipate playing much baseball while there, but is nonetheless excited about volunteering his time in Fiji.
Agnew has also participated in service projects in Park City. He and his family started a food drive two years ago to help feed families in need during Christmastime. Agnew led the drive last winter, and he, his family, and several baseball players and other volunteers, including the Especially for Athletes group at the high school, distributed hundreds of meals.
Agnew said the drive has been a great community event for high schoolers and athletes to come together during Christmastime.
“That’s been a really fun thing for me,” he said. “It’s definitely been one of the highlights of my career you could say.”
Feasler said that’s just who Agnew is.
“I think he’s a true believer in, you give back and good things are going to happen to you,” Feasler said. “And that’s been the case with Ben with three years. He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached.”
Just because Agnew enjoys service doesn’t mean his transition to mission life is seamless.
Agnew was required to cut his hair, which is usually long enough to achieve what baseball players call “flow” – spilling out from beneath a helmet or hat.
But even that has played out well for Agnew.
The first game after he cut it on March 19, he hit two doubles.
“I’m getting used to it,” Agnew said. “I don’t know if that has anything to do with (baseball performance) but I’ll keep it short for now.”
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.