No matter the sport, every young athlete dreams of hearing the commissioner of his favorite professional sports league coming to the podium on draft day to announce his or her arrival into that league.
For RHP Ty Hensley, that dream didn’t exactly come to fruition, as it was not Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig who made the fateful announcement at the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft in Secaucus, NJ.
Instead, the commissioner gave way to CC Sabathia, 2007 Cy Young Award winner and 2009 World Series champion, representing his New York Yankees. The 2009 ALCS MVP then announced to the crowd gathered at MLB Network headquarters…
“With the 30th selection in the 2012 First Year Player Draft, the New York Yankees select Ty Hensley, right-handed pitcher from Edmond Santa Fé High School”
The 20 year old Hensley recalls that fateful evening. He was surrounded by his friends and loved ones in his home state of Oklahoma, where he had just completed a stellar year at Edmond Sante Fe High School, which also happens to be alma mater of another 1st round pick…Brandon Weeden, who played baseball before beginning his route to becoming a first round draft pick in the NFL at Oklahoma State. Unlike Weeden, where it was a requirement, Hensley forwent college and went to play professional baseball straight out of high school.
“That day was just so crazy,” he recalls. “I really had no idea that the Yankees were going to be the ones that would end up taking me but when it happened it was a big sigh of relief. It took me until the next day to realize what actually happened. It’s one of the coolest days of my life.”
For Hensley, baseball runs in his blood. His father Mike spent time as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. His father’s time in the game helped him prepare for the immediate transition into professional ball.
“I was prepped a lot better than a lot of kids are,” he said the younger Hensley. “I was fortunate to have that, and as a result (the transition) wasn’t that hard for me.”
Unfortunately for Hensley, instantaneous success in the pros was not to be. Injuries took their toll on the young right-hander, to the point where headed into the short New York-Penn League season, Hensley had pitched a mere 12 innings of professional baseball.
“It’s good not to say the word rehab anymore,” says Hensley with a laugh.
Hensley did not let the constant ailments keep him off the road toward his ultimate goal. After spending the early portions of the summer with the Gulf Coast team, accumulating a 2.37 ERA in 7 appearances (6 starts) he joined the Staten Island Yankees, the single A affiliate of the Major League organization of the same nickname, on July 30 where he took the hill to start the Yankees’ matchup with the Lowell Spinners, affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Despite allowing 2 earned runs in 2 ⅔ innings, Hensley struck out four in the Yankees’ 5-4 win. He would make three more appearances for Staten Island, all starts, with his best outing coming in his third showing on August 17 against Tri-City. In 3 full innings, he allowed just one hit and struck out four in Staten Island’s 6-3 win. Hensley wrapped up his freshman season in Richmond County on August 25, allowing a run on four hits in 3 more innings, though he struck out six Brooklyn Cyclones, one short of his professional career high. While Hensley would not record a decision as a Yankee, Staten Island would go 3-1 in the games he started. He would finish the year with a solid 3.86 ERA, walking just 2 while striking out 17.
“There were definitely times I just wanted to crawl into a hole,” he said. “It got tough at points but luckily I have a real supportive family to help me get through all of it.”
He also praised the training staff that helped his return to professional ball possible.
“The training staff down in Tampa and all the doctors that worked on me did a tremendous job,” he said. “I’m thankful to be playing again.”
Hensley admitted that it took some transitioning to joining the team midseason, not to mention starting off with abbreviated outings. However, he knows that it help out in the long run, and that it will hopefully enable him to reach his ultimate goal of reaching the big club in The Bronx.
“I love playing baseball,” he said. “And to do it for a job, for a living, I can’t imagine a life better than that.”
Hensley’s time in Staten Island has been close supervised by the Yankees’ veteran coaching staff. Pitching coach Tim Norton, who knows a thing or two about the organization having helped it win an NY-Penn League title in 2006, had nothing but positive things to say about Hensley’s Richmond County cameo.
“He’s been really good, it’s been fun to have him here,” said the coach. “He’s had some setbacks over the past few years, but he’s come along really well, the ball comes out of his hand with some life. He’s a kid who shows up, does his work and does things the right way. I’m happy to see him head in the right direction.”
Staten Island manager Mario Garza echoed his associate’s sentiments.
“I’m really happy where Ty ended up,” said the manager. “There were some concerns coming into the season but the organization did a great job of putting his health as a paramount concern and creating a development plan for him that worked. He was able to improve his fastball and we knew about his secondary pitches. (Pitching coordinator) Gil Patterson is going to create a great plan for him this off-season”
With Staten Island baseball wrapped until next summer and his rehab finally completed, Hensley’s focus now shifts toward the long off-season, which will be very important for his development. He had a solid month in Richmond County, but knows that there’s more in store for him. Slated to begin next year’s season in Staten Island, he plans to stick to the team’s training regiment in hopes that he’ll be able to continue his road toward the majors.
“I’m liking it a lot here in Staten Island,” Hensley said. “The management and people have done a really great job here. They treat us like big leaguers and make us feel special. It’s also pretty cool and awesome to look right across the river and realize your dream isn’t so far away.”
When commenting on Hensley’s future, Norton again praised the young Oklahoma native.
“There’s a reason he skipped college,” he said. “I’d stack him up to almost anyone. The kid’s got a bright future and all he needs is to put together some time and he’s going to make a run at it.”