Playing on a majors stage

Published 9:42 pm Thursday, August 11, 2011

Josh Henderson will play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at San Diego’s Petco Park Sunday evening. The game brings together 40 of the best high school players in the country and is being televised on CBS Sports Network. Henderson is a rising senior and plays for First Baptist.

Henderson playing in All-American game in San Diego

Josh Henderson has played baseball all over the southeast throughout the summer. He’s displayed his power, speed, defense and smarts in front of college and pro scouts at every stop along the way.

The stage Henderson gets to play on Sunday is still an incredible opportunity all to itself, though.

Henderson is one of 40 of the best high school-age prospects in the country will play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, at the Padres’ Petco Park.

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Being considered for the Classic, which will be televised live on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. on Sunday, means a young ballplayer is already at a top level.

The Perfect Game National Showcase brought about 300 players to Fort Myers, Fla., to the Boston Red Sox spring training facility, for workouts and games in front of coaches, scouts and agents earlier this summer. The top 40 prospects were invited to San Diego.

It’ll be Henderson’s first time playing in a Major League stadium and first time, playing ball or doing anything else, in California.

Petco Park will be miles different than playing on nice high school or college fields all summer, like Henderson’s done with the club team, Canes Baseball.

It will be light-years apart from the small, Spartan rec league field on King’s Fork Road where Henderson, a home-schooled rising senior who joins First Baptist’s baseball program to play high school ball, plays as a Crusader centerfielder.

“I’m excited. That’s all I can say,” Henderson said.

“I’ll play hard no matter what. I’ll dive for balls in the outfield, just do whatever I can to help the East team win,” he said. The Classic is an East vs. West game.

“Mainly I just go out there and pray. I ask for the Lord to help me and I have faith. Whatever happens on the field, I give Him the praise,” Henderson said.

As big of an opportunity playing in a nationwide all-star game in a Major League stadium is, it’s only part of Henderson’s full summer calendar.

Henderson’s played in Cary, N.C., Marietta, Ga., the University of Virginia, East Carolina and South Carolina.

“The only time I think I seem a little fatigued is when we play two or three games a day. We had a doubleheader, then we were out on the field at 7 a.m. the next day for a game at 8 a.m. Something like that wears on your body a little bit,” Henderson said.

“(Canes Baseball) has really great coaches. They have major connections to top schools and the pros, some of the coaches are pro scouts. They know all the scouts, advisors and agents,” Henderson said.

With previous editions under different names, this is the ninth annual Perfect Game Classic. Eighty-one MLB first-round draft picks have been in the game through the first eight years.

With all the possibilities and exciting news around, it could be a challenge to simply play and practice baseball.

“Mainly, I have to know there’s always someone out there who’s better, and they’re working on their game, and I’m not the only guy they (scouts) are looking at,” Henderson said.

Before the primetime game at Petco Park, the high schoolers will visit a children’s hospital and a nursing home in San Diego.

“We’re going to just bring some smiles to the kids,” Henderson said.

“It’s always good to do something for someone else. It could be we’ll visit someone who doesn’t have family or friends come and visit them very often, so that’s an important part of the trip, too,” he said.