Dawgs getting some big league help
Baseball: Jim Henderson instructing academy players
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012 10:08 am
A former Dawg who toiled in the minors for nearly a decade before getting his big break to pitch in the majors is going to reward himself by spending his offseason in a baseball paradise.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jim Henderson is going to spend much of his time at the exotic Duvernay Fieldhouse in Okotoks — arguably the best indoor facility on Canada — to train and mentor members of the Dawgs Academy.
“I am going to be down here almost every day and I am really going to be focusing on my off-season training — I have a little bit more at risk right now and I have to ready for next season,” the 29- year-old Henderson said in an interview last week in Okotoks.
Henderson also plans to continue to work with the young ballplayers in the Dawgs Academy. It’s a program he credits for making him a big leaguer.
“This is home to me and it is a program that I enjoy and want to keep giving back to,” Henderson said. “Now I have even more knowledge having played in the major leagues and it is good for the kids to see that one of their own made it up there.”
Henderson was called up from the Nashville Sounds to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 25 and pitched against the Washington Nationals the next day.
He had plenty of fans in Okotoks cheering for him when he threw his first pitch as a big leaguer. Many of those fans welcomed him home on Oct. 12.
Henderson received a loud ovation from the approximately 50 athletes on the Duvernay turf when he stepped on to the field.
One of those athletes was Jake Shaw, a Holy Trinity Academy Grade 12 student and a right-handed pitcher for the national champion Okotoks Midget Black Dawgs.
“He was my pitching instructor and my workout dude,” Shaw said with a smile. “I followed every game… When he got called up we were hyped for him and all the boys came over to watch him. We weren’t sure he would get in.”
Henderson had a 1-2-3 inning in his debut striking out the first batter he faced.
“It is just mind blowing to have a guy that you know who is in the show,” said Shaw, who will attend Northern Kentucky University next year. “Jim shows that if you work hard and have the talent anything can be done. It opens up your mind that if you work hard, you can reach your goals.”
Henderson kept track of the Midgets’ success while he was in Milwaukee through his twitter account and the Dawgs’ website.
Of course, he had some success of his own.
Henderson pitched 30.2 innings in 36 games. He had a 1-3 record but most importantly for a set-up man had three saves and 15 holds. His ERA was 3.52 and he struck out 45 batters.
One thing Henderson never expected was to be pitching in a pennant race. When he was called up the Brewers were well back. However, they were able to climb within 1- 1/2 games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the last National League wildcard spot before being eliminated just days before the end of the regular season.
“That stunned everybody,” Henderson said of being in a pennant race. “They were calling up the prospects and preparing for next year. There was a new energy on the team and we just took off.”
Henderson said he didn’t have time to get nervous. Suddenly it didn’t matter which ballpark he was in, who the batter was, it was all about performing on the bump.
“All the personal goals got tossed out the window,” Henderson said. “You just couldn’t worry about being nervous. It felt like I was in there every day. It was a lot of fun down the stretch.”
He was called upon in a few tough situations.
“I came into a game in Pittsburgh with the bases loaded with two outs,” Henderson said. “I was facing Pittsburgh catcher Michael McKenry and I got to a 3-2 count. I hadn’t thrown a slider the whole at bat. I threw a 3-2 slider, which was a gutsy call, and he flew out.”
He gave up one home run in the season to a Brewer killer from the other Beer capital in the United States.
“Yadier Molina (of the St. Louis Cardinals),” Henderson said. “He hit a home run to tie the game. Our manager Ron Roenicke called me in the next day and said: ‘don’t worry about it. He’s been killing us all year.’
“I knew it was out as soon as he hit it. It was a bad pitch. We were right in the thick of the pennant race, and fortunately we came back to win.”
Henderson will now focus on the offseason. He has been given a workout regime to work on his flexibility and strength to be ready to go to the Brewers’ major league spring camp in February. It is the first time he has been invited to a main camp for spring training.
He will be practicing what he preaches to the young ballplayers he mentors at the Dawgs Academy.
“I truly believe the offseason is when I get better — that’s when I put my work in,” Henderson said. “I want to emphasize to these kids the winter time is when you get stronger you practice your trade and you get better for the season.”
He is using his big league experience to promote the academy and Okotoks as well.
Henderson is the keynote speaker for the Dawgs’ annual banquet on Feb. 3 at the Foothills Centennial Centre.
For ticket information call the Dawgs at 403-262-DAWG (3294).