Henderson to join Dodgers

Published 8:03 pm Saturday, July 14, 2012

Josh Henderson signs his Los Angeles Dodgers contract with his father Steve, left, and Clair Rierson of the Dodgers on right.

By Titus Mohler
Correspondent

Former First Baptist baseball star and home-schooled athlete Josh Henderson became a professional baseball player on Friday morning after signing an offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The deal is worth $200,000 with additional money that will be provided through the MLB’s scholarship fund to pay Henderson’s way through college while he’s a pro player and up to two years afterward.

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“It’s a blessing and a dream come true,” Henderson said. “I don’t know, it still hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m a professional baseball player. It probably won’t hit me until I actually get out there.”

The Dodgers had drafted Henderson in the 16th round on June 6, but because the competition he faced in high school was not on a consistently high level, they wanted to evaluate him further before making an offer.

For the last two weeks, Henderson played for the Peninsula Pilots under the watchful eye of Dodgers scouts. In 11 games, he produced a team-leading .379 batting average, .552 slugging percentage, and tied for the team-best with a .424 on-base percentage.

“The Lord blessed him,” his father Steve Henderson said. “He was the only high school kid on the team and he had an awesome experience there.”

Contract negotiations began this past Tuesday when the Dodgers submitted their first offer, which the Henderson family turned down.

The difficulty for the Hendersons stemmed from the fact that other high school players, with whom Henderson had played and demonstrated equivalent ability, had been drafted in the top five rounds, enabling them to receive multi-million dollar contracts. It was a mystery as to why Henderson was not picked until the 16th round.

The new collective bargaining agreement for Major League Baseball precludes teams from being able to offer big money to players who happen to fall to much later rounds.

The Dodgers came back on Wednesday with a second offer and after prayerful consideration, the Hendersons decided to accept it.

“They got a deal,” Steve Henderson said with a laugh. “The Dodgers got a deal and they know they got a deal. But when it gets right down to it, their hands were tied because of the new collective bargaining agreement.”

The Dodgers Assistant General Manager Logan White, in charge of amateur and international scouting, was quite pleased with the signing.

“We are extremely excited Josh has chosen to sign with the Dodgers,” White stated. “He is a fine person with the kind of makeup the organization is looking for. He has a quality, line-drive stroke and has an advanced feel for hitting. As he matures, he’ll grow into more power and has a chance to become a middle of the order bat.”

Henderson’s former First Baptist coach Orel Schleeper was not the least bit surprised by the news.

“Jeff Meyers and I both felt deeply in our hearts that with his attitude and the way he played baseball and to be an athlete that he is, we knew he was going to sign with somebody,” he said.

Josh will next head to Glendale, Ariz., to play in the Arizona League on the Dodgers’ rookie league team. From there, if he continues his high level of performance, he could be called up to the next higher level club in the Dodgers’ minor league system.

“My goal that I have right now is to go out there, work my butt off,” he said, “and after the end of this year, hopefully I’ll be moving up to the next club which will be in Ogden, Utah.”

Henderson’s father summed up what his goals are for his son at this point.

“Be the man that God wants him to be,” Steve Henderson said. “It’s part of God’s plan for his life and to make the best of it. Keep working hard. Scripture says a man’s gift will make room for him and the gift that God has given Josh — He’s gifted him to play baseball, and it’s opened doors for him. Just with that in mind, just go ahead and do it for His glory.”