L.A. Dodgers draft Suffolk senior

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

Homeschooled Suffolk senior Josh Henderson was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

By Titus Mohler

Correspondent

Josh Henderson and his family had been fervently praying and, though the answer they wanted took longer than expected, it came when the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Josh in the 16th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft this week.

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“I was sitting at the computer,” Josh said, “looking at my mom’s laptop, and then I heard, ‘The Dodgers’ next pick,’ then they called out my ID number, said, ‘Henderson, Josh. Joshua Henderson from Suffolk, Va.’ And I was like ‘Wow! I’ve been picked.’ My parents are downstairs. I went downstairs and I was like, ‘I got picked! By the Dodgers!’ And I was like, just, I mean, words can’t describe how it felt. It was amazing!”

It was not until the announcer said “Suffolk, Va.,” that the moment really hit home for Josh.

“It was surreal,” he said. “It was a surreal moment. (I’m) just thankful, it was a blessing, just to have been picked.”

Both of Josh’s coaches at First Baptist Christian, Orel Schleeper and Jeff Meyers, figured that it might be the Dodgers. Schleeper said that the Dodgers had called many times asking about Josh’s character, and Meyers said their scouts made at least six or seven appearances at school games.

For Josh, the moment that came a little after noon on June 6 was the thrilling culmination of a lot of hard work and dreams.

“It’s just a blessing, man,” he said, “because it’s been a lifelong dream since I was a little kid to have a chance to play professional baseball and work my way up to the major leagues.”

Josh and his family had been expecting him to go much earlier in the 40-round draft that took place June 4-6. During the summer, Josh had played with many of the players who were being drafted in the initial rounds and exhibited similar abilities.

“It was a trying, a testing of our faith,” Josh’s father Steve Henderson said. “We believe the Lord’s hand is on his life, we believe God has anointed him to play baseball, and we believe he’s one of the best players in the country.”

“We’re very proud of him, very proud,” Josh’s mother Sonya Henderson said. “This is something actually that he’s always dreamed of. So, you’re excited to see something come to pass that they always wanted to do.”

“I’m a diehard Yankees fan — and whatever team my son plays for,” Steve said with a laugh. “So, that’s the way that goes.”

The next step in the process will involve more evaluation.

“They need to get some more looks at me to decide how much money they are going to offer me,” Josh said.

Since Josh was homeschooled and unable to play for Nansemond River High School, the public school he would have attended, he played high school baseball for the First Baptist Christian School Crusaders and the competition was at a lower level than would be ideal for a young man preparing to negotiate with a major league franchise. So within the next week or so he will begin playing for the Peninsula Pilots in Hampton, who play in the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer league.

And there is still a possibility that he could wind up attending Liberty University.

“It’s 50-50 right now,” Josh said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do. My parents and I are going to put our heads together, pray, like we’ve been doing the whole time, and go from there.”

If the Dodgers’ offer is reasonable and Josh accepts it, he will be able to take advantage of the MLB’s scholarship fund. Through this fund, the league pays for the player’s education while they’re playing and for up to two years afterward.

For now, the challenge will be proving that his value as a baseball player is high.

“Ever since he was nine years old,” Steve said, “he’s had to go prove himself (and) he’ll just have to go out and do that again with the Lord’s help.”