Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source Sept 2003

It's Not Easy Being Drew

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photo by Kyla Baldwin

Being Drew Henson isn't a simple task.  With media pundits, scouts, Yankee's management, and even the home fans dogging you, it would be pretty easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed. As if all of that isn't enough, your also placing a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself.

"I think people forget how little baseball I'd played when I first signed a couple of years ago," Henson said.  "I expect a lot from myself, and whatever pressure there is playing in this organization, I probably put more on myself.  That's the way I've been my whole life."

When the Yankees gave Henson a 6 year, $17 million contract in 2001, they expected him to be manning the hot corner in the Bronx by now.  Of course, it hasn't quite worked out that way, as the prospect continues to struggle during his second full season at Triple A Columbus.

While his power numbers remain solid, Henson has had trouble making contact and judging the strike zone. Lately, he has begun to show signs of improvement in both areas thanks to a new mental approach.

"I've quit worrying about trying to get ready, and now am just trying to be in a strong position to get a hit," the 23-year-old explained.  "Right now I feel more comfortable than I have before.  I try not to think about it too much, I just stick with the feeling that I have and go from there."

Playing in the heart of Buckeye country, the former Michigan quarterback often draws boos from the home crowd.  "In the past it's been worse.  It's not like it was a year or two ago,"  Henson said of the crowd's reaction to him.  "At this point a lot of people have accepted me, supported me, and treated me nicely."

In fact, Henson is under so much scrutiny in Columbus, that when he's not in the line up, it causes a stir throughout the press box and crowd.  "Where's Drew?" seems to be on the lips of everyone, which is soon followed by speculation that he has been demoted to Double A or even traded
(even though that is nearly impossible with his large contract).

"He's such a good guy that you almost feel bad for him," one teammate said of Henson, "but with all the money he's making, you don't feel too bad. Of course, if he was jerk, you'd just say 'fine, (he deserves it).'"

Despite the turmoil, Henson remains confident, "I believe in my heart that I could get (to the majors) and help somebody right now, but you can only worry about things that are in your control," he said.   "I just try to do my work everyday, try to improve and when the opportunity comes, to be ready for it."

A projected first round pick in the NFL,  Henson has been unable to dodge the perception that he is a football player that happens to be playing baseball.  "I guess I've just realized that it's part of me as an athlete," he explained.  "Until I am an established major league player, that is always going to be brought up.  The only way to quiet it down is to get to the big leagues and start hitting."

Henson says he tries to bring the same intensity to baseball that he did in football, "You can't be successful in football unless you compete," the third baseman commented.  "Mentally, I don't take any days off, when I show up to the park I am ready to go.  I just like to play, to compete, and win."

When the Houston Texans used their sixth round pick on him in the 2003 NFL Draft, Henson was surprised and even flattered.  "(It's flattering) that people still think I could (play football) if I wanted to," he explained.  "Really, nothing's developed from that, I'll just wait and see if  anything will."

Henson quickly pointed out that Houston's decision hasn't affected his mindset. "They understand what I am trying to do here.  I think it was just in case things changed -- that's where they were coming from," he said.  "They know that I am working hard (at baseball)."

When the Yankees traded for All Star 3B Aaron Boone on July 31st, it led to further speculation about Henson's future in the organization.  He has said repeatedly that he's committed to baseball and doesn't worry about things he "can't control," but unless Henson turns it around quickly, a helmet and shoulder pads could be in his future.

-David Zingler
 
(Note: On September 1, it was reported that Henson is leaving the Yankees organization to pursue a career in the NFL.  Later that week however, he was called up by the Yankees.)

Henson's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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