“Sounds good to me, when you've got a great athlete such as he is,” said Columbus Clippers coach Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, the ex-Buckeye, of Drew Henson, the former Wolverine quarterback.
Henson signed a five-year, $17 million contract in March - three days after the Yankees reacquired the 6-5, 222-pound third baseman from the Reds. The Yankees had drafted him out of high school, then traded him to Cincinnati last summer.
Henson said that trade served as a wake-up call.
“(Sometimes) it takes leaving and coming back to realize what you have with this organization,” he was saying yesterday, before his Clippers met the Mud Hens at Skeldon Stadium.
“(The Yankees) go above and beyond as far as giving you things to help you succeed. I realized that this is the organization I wanted to be with, and once the chance came again I didn't want to put it off any longer and maybe lose it again.”
So Henson passed on the chance to play football his senior year - and what a senior year it could have been. He threw 18 touchdown passes last season, and was considered by many to be a Heisman Trophy candidate going into this year, an award, by the way, won by Cassady in 1955.
“I'm totally at peace with (the decision),” Henson said. “It's nice to know that I've got 12 months to devote to baseball now, and I won't have any long layoffs. So I can do the work and won't have any steps taken backward like I have the last couple of years from missing so much time.”
And Henson said an April hand injury, which has played a part in his .209 batting average in 37 games with the Clippers, hasn't caused him to second-guess the decision.
“I can only control so much, and injuries are a part of the game in any sport. You try to roll with it and get better in some other area.”
Cassady said no one should worry about Henson's struggles at this level. After all, he's just 21.
“He's doing a good job for us,” Cassady said. “He's a hard worker, and it shows he has a lot of talent in just about all sports. I sure hope he keeps on going and improving just like he's doing.”
Henson's new contract, which prohibits him from playing football during those five years, does not guarantee a call-up to the majors this September. But Henson isn't worried about a promotion to the Yankees right now, saying, “That's a decision (the Yankees) will make and I don't think they make those decisions until just before (they are announced). I'll just have to wait and see what happens.”
For now Henson will have to be happy playing in front of friends and family. Among those who made the 75-mile trip from his hometown of Brighton, Mich., were his father, former Eastern Michigan assistant football coach Dan Henson, his mother Carol, sister Brittany, and his grandmother and great aunt.
“This is great. A lot of my friends and teammates who haven't seen me play pro baseball will get the chance here,” Henson said of his first appearance in Toledo. “And again I can go home and see my family, which is nice.”
With fall practice in Ann Arbor set to begin next week, does Henson expect to miss football?
“You don't miss training camp - that's not a fun time of the season. But come September, yeah, I'll miss the games and I'll miss being with my guys. I'm pulling for them.”
But what about playing in Columbus? After all, last year Henson threw three TD passes and ran for another in leading the Wolverines to a 38-26 win over Ohio State.
The result was some booing during Henson's early days in a Clippers uniform.
“I think it was to be expected,” Henson said. “They may be Clipper fans, but they're mostly Ohio State football fans. So you get the occasional boos.
“But it wasn't like it was when we played there in football. It was 10 times worse then, so this wasn't anything I wasn't able to handle.”
And wearing the same uniform as a Buckeye isn't a problem for this Michigan man.
“Hop is great,” Henson said. “He tells us stories of when he played. And he won the Heisman Trophy, and there's only a handful of people who can say that. Hop is friends with (Bo) Schembechler and a bunch of the old-school Michigan guys.
“He's been great, but it is kind of weird that we're on the baseball field together.”
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