Chad Bentz speaks at the 13th annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony at the Anchorage Museum Atrium on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Bentz and trapshooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein headlined the 2019 Hall of Fame class. (Courtesy Photo | Jim Kohl Photography)

Chad Bentz speaks at the 13th annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony at the Anchorage Museum Atrium on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Bentz and trapshooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein headlined the 2019 Hall of Fame class. (Courtesy Photo | Jim Kohl Photography)

He once struck out Ken Griffey Jr. Now, Juneau’s most famous baseball player is finally getting his due.

Juneau pitcher ‘won’t forget’ his induction into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame

Juneau’s most famous baseball player was formally inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the Anchorage Museum.

Chad Bentz, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate who played in the Major Leagues, was one of two athletes entered into the Hall this year. Olympic bronze medal-winning trapshooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein of Eagle River was also selected for the distinction.

“It was a lot of fun,” Bentz said by cellphone on Friday morning. “Honestly, I didn’t realize how big of deal it was until after. It was really neat. I definitely won’t forget it.”

Chad Bentz is presented a plaque at the 13th annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony at the Anchorage Museum Atrium on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (Courtesy Photo | Jim Kohl Photography)

Chad Bentz is presented a plaque at the 13th annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony at the Anchorage Museum Atrium on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (Courtesy Photo | Jim Kohl Photography)

During his remarks at the ceremony, Bentz reflected on the impact of Jim Abbott on his life. Abbott, one of one of just 11 Yankees to throw a no-hitter, played in the Majors with a deformed right hand like Bentz. Both men were born with the deformity.

“I wasn’t the most confident person but then I saw Abbott and he inspired me to try things,” Bentz said. “There was two great things about playing (professional) baseball. One was the physical part — playing against the best people in the world at that game. That was fantastic. The other best part was I was able to meet a ton of people that were disabled in some way. I could see they were looking at me like I looked at Abbott.”

“There’s no better feeling than giving someone that hope or that inspiration.”

Bentz, 38, starred on the JDHS football and baseball teams during the late ‘90s. During his senior season, Bentz was named the Gatorade Alaska Baseball Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-2 lefty went on to play for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots (Alaska Baseball League) and Long Beach State Dirtbags (NCAA), and was taken in the seventh round of the 2001 MLB draft.

Bentz made 40 appearances in the Bigs from 2004-2005. As a 24-year-old, he played in 36 games with the Montreal Expos. The following year, he was called up for four games with the Florida Marlins.

Two of his 18 career strikeouts came against Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki. Like Abbott, the former Crimson Bear threw and fielded with his left hand. He became so polished at switching his glove from one hand to the next on his follow through, it once took a scout three innings to notice.

Bentz played for the minor league affiliates of the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds in 2006. He attended spring training with the Colorado Rockies the following year, but did not make the team.

Bentz eventually transitioned from baseball to football in 2010, and played one season for Vermont’s Castleton State College. After earning a Masters in Sports Administration and Coaching at Concordia University Irvine, Bentz returned to Juneau to become an athletic director and gym teacher at his alma mater.

Chad Bentz and daughter Kyla at the 13th annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony at the Anchorage Museum Atrium on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (Courtesy Photo | Jim Kohl Photography)

Chad Bentz and daughter Kyla at the 13th annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony at the Anchorage Museum Atrium on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (Courtesy Photo | Jim Kohl Photography)

Hall of Fame

The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame has inducted just under 40 athletes since its establishment in 2006. It’s enshrined NCAA and NBA champions like Carlos Boozer and Mario Chalmers, as well as distinguished winter-sport athletes like Hilary Lindh, Scott Gomez and Susan Butcher.

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In addition to inducting people, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame also inducts significant Alaska sporting events and moments every year. The Alaska Run for Women and Kodiak’s upset of East Anchorage in the 2001 state title game were also recognized at the ceremony Thursday night.

This marked the 13th class to be honored by the Hall, which uses a selection panel, past inductees and the public to select its members. The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s enshrinement gallery is located at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.