Friendswood’s own Benavides guiding Mustangs back to state
Friendswood is going to the state baseball tournament for the first time since 2008. A former Mustang is taking it there.
In Cory Benavides’ fourth year as head coach, Friendswood is headed back to Round Rock after finishing as a regional finalist last season. The Class of 2006 Mustang, a former baseball and football standout, is a Friendswood lifer.
“A 12-year senior,” Benavides said, laughing.
Benavides was raised in Friendswood. He played shortstop and pitched for the Mustangs. He only left for his college years, starting at Angelina Junior College in Lufkin before finishing at Stephen F. Austin. He returned to initiate his coaching career at Friendswood Junior High in 2013 before moving on to the high school.
“I’m just very blessed how it all worked out,” Benavides said. “It’s one of those things where I’ve always wanted to be a coach, having been a leader on a bunch of teams, and one of the goals is you want to win it all. I’ve always prepared myself for taking a team all the way, and Lord willing, we have a chance to do that.”
The Mustangs (29-7-1) play Mansfield Legacy (32-9) in the Class 5A semifinal Thursday at Dell Diamond.
“Even if I was at another school, it’d be an awesome feeling to take a team to the state tournament,” Benavides said. “But being from Friendswood makes it more special. It’s incredible. But our job is to go out and play baseball. We have to make this as normal as possible.”
Benavides was a natural leader in high school. The ultimate competitor who wanted to win for his teammates and his community. Leading is something Benavides said was “God given.”
He is the same way now as he was then. Benavides makes a determined effort to be a prominent influence for his players today just like he made a concerted effort to be a role model for his teammates as a varsity three-year letterman.
“He’s done everything he can to make sure we’re prepared every single day,” said senior Dylan Maxcey, who arrived on campus in Benavides’ first year as head coach. “Every practice, he brings the energy. Talent alone doesn’t take you this far. He’s done an amazing job with relationships, making sure his guys are OK, making sure we’re all taken care of, while also staying on us about the little things.”
Cory Benavides (front, left) being introduced as Friendswood High's baseball coach four years ago.Courtesy
Benavides is all about the intangibles. When he got the head coaching job, he knew he wanted to do things different.
His main goal and primary teaching point is mental toughness.
“That’s No. 1 for us,” Benavides said. “If we have effort and we’re mentally tough, everything else will take care of itself. Just because of where we are, Friendswood has a legacy of having good athletes, good baseball players. So how did I want to get over the hump? It was mental toughness.”
How did he get the Mustangs here? For one, Benavides repeats himself. A lot. Early in the day and often throughout.
“First and foremost is to let them know, and not to just say it once and expect them to do it,” he said. “It’s a day in and day out conversation.”
Benavides also made the weight room an emphasis. The Mustangs lifted 3-4 times a week during the fall. But the key was just getting players in there, whether it was for 6:30 a.m. sessions or after school.
“You win games in the weight room,” Benavides said. “Not only does it make you physically better, but it makes you mentally tough. You’re going to fail there, too, and it’s all about learning how to fail and get back up and keep going. Getting in there and doing that work is the first step, the biggest step.”
These Mustangs fight. They never give up. They are loaded with big time NCAA Division I talents, but they work. They grind.
They understand the moment, the opportunity at hand. Especially now.
“This is another game for us,” Benavides said. “You’ve still got to throw, catch, throw strikes, hit, make good decisions. When it gets to this point, every team is good. But who’s going to do the routine stuff better?”
Because of their work and preparation, the Mustangs are confident it will be them. They trust in Benavides and his process. And they believe in him because they know he cares.
Benavides was one of them. He walked the same halls to classes. He ate in the same cafeteria. He dove for ground balls and took swings wearing the same colors.
“I grew up here my whole life,” he said. “It’s a small town. The community is really involved. I came back because I wanted my family and my children to grow up here and experience all this as well. It’s home.”
Coaching Friendswood to state is personal for Benavides. His players know that, understand that, and are playing like it.
“I think this means the world to him,” Maxcey said. “It’s even bigger to him to lead us as a head coach. He’s who we look up to when we need help or energy or anything. Without a doubt, we know he’s our first call if we ever need anything. We fight for Coach B.”