Meet Benny Agbayani
Retired Major League Baseball Player, Ramp Agent, Father and Coach
Now a high school softball coach and Hawaiian Airlines ramp agent, former professional baseball player Benny Agbayani shares the lessons he learned in the big leagues to inspire teamwork on and off the field.
In his Little League Baseball days, Benny Agbayani recalls many long practices and game days when family and friends would come together and share home-cooked food. “You’d be there at the park all day and all night, with everyone just talking story,” he says. He was 6 years old when he began playing organized baseball in ‘Aiea, and he played the sport all the way through college for Hawaii Pacific University, where he set records for the most homeruns and the most stolen bases in a single season. Then in 1998, at 26, Benny walked out onto the field with the New York Mets for his first Major League Baseball game.
He was with the Mets four seasons, and a series of impressive feats made Benny a quick favorite among fans. He hit a homerun in the 11th-inning against the Chicago Cubs for the Mets’ first win of the 2000 season, earning him the nickname “Hawaiian Punch.” During his career, Benny also played for the Colorado Rockies, the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, the Kansas City Royals, and the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Having retired from professional baseball in 2009, Benny is back on O‘ahu working with the Hawaiian Airlines ground crew as a ramp agent. His shift starts with a 4 a.m. briefing on scheduled arrivals for the day, then he handles cargo for a dozen or more flights. The role requires clear communication to ensure the baggage gets on and off aircrafts efficiently so flights can run on schedule. “You pass the bag to the next person, until it gets to the belt. There’s a lot of teamwork going on out there,” he says. “If you’re missing somebody, it doesn’t work.” Benny loves that the physical side of the job keeps him active, and he enjoys stepping into the role of unofficial coach, helping motivate teammates during the long mornings.
When his daughter became a student at ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, Benny was recruited once again, this time as a coach for the ‘Iolani Raiders women’s high school softball team. “I got coached by some great players in the mainland, and I wanted to bring it back home to try to help these kids accomplish their goals in life,” he says. After his shift at Hawaiian Airlines, Benny runs Raiders practices at a fast pace for two jam-packed hours to leave players enough time in the evenings to finish their schoolwork.
Coaching is Benny’s way of showing Hawaii’s young ball players just how far discipline and dedication can take them. He helps his team members develop a solid foundation of baseball skills and teaches them the values they will need to overcome challenges in sports and in life. “Student athletes today tend to doubt themselves when they’re not doing well,” he says. “But these kids have all the resources and talent; they just need the right coaches to give them that confidence. If they can stay focused, their dreams can really come true.”