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Chasing The Dream: The Steven Hensley Story and Interview

Many players who get drafted at the high school level have an important decision to make. Take a chance and go pro now and let the team that drafted you develop you or go to college and develop your game and hopefully improve you place in the draft a few years later. Steven Hensley whom we spotlight today he had that choice. In 2005 the Washington Nationals took a late, 44th round draft pick on Hensley

Steven Hensley: Quick Stats

Team: Seattle Mariners Twitter: @The_Hen17

Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 180 lb. Born: December 27, 1986 in Asheville, North Carolina, US (Age 25)

Drafted:  Seattle Mariners in the 4th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft

Favorite Player Growing Up: Chipper Jones

Chasing The Dream: The Steven Hensley Story

Many players who get drafted at the high school level have an important decision to make. Take a chance and go pro now and let the team that drafted you develop you or go to college and develop your game and hopefully improve you place in the draft a few years later. Steven Hensley whom we spotlight today had that choice. In 2005 the Washington Nationals took a late, 44th round draft pick on Hensley but he opted to attend Elon University in his home state of North Carolina. At Elon, Hensley continued to improve and refine his game. During his junior season Hensley put up some impressive numbers which scouts noticed. He finished the season with 10 wins, 2 losses and an ERA of 3.59. On top of the solid win total he put up an impressive K/9 of 9.62 and became the career record holder for strikeouts at Elon.  When the 2008 draft came around the 44th round selection out of high school ended up improving his draft position by 40 rounds as the Seattle Mariners selected the pitcher with their 4th round selection.

Shortly after the draft, Hensley signed with the Mariners and began his professional journey with the Everett Aqua Sox. After just 8 games however Henley suffered an ulnar collateral ligament injury in his pitching elbow, which sidelined him for the rest of his season. In 2009 Hensley returned to action and was driven to prove he was healthy. He quickly moved upward in the Mariners organization. In just four games with the Clinton Lumberkings Hensley dominated the league. He compiled a 4-0 record with a perfect ERA of 0.00 in 19.2 innings of work. The Mariners decided to move Hensley on to the next level of baseball and the pitcher saw himself lacing up his cleats for High Desert Mavericks, the California League team of the Mariners.

Hensley as a member of the Lumber Kings (photo from the Kings blog)

Just as with the Lumberkings, Hensley continued his solid season with the Mavericks. In 19 starts with the club Hensley managed 9 wins against 3 loses and an ERA of 4.21. For some an ERA of that ilk may not seem impressive however pitching in the California League this is an above average number. For those unfamiliar with the league it is widely known as a hitters league and the Mavericks ballpark is known to be one of if not the most hitter friendly parks in all levels of baseball. After showing he could survive and succeed in the California League it was time for the next challenge in Hensley’s climb to the big leagues. After the season ended Hensley was recognized by Baseball America as having the top slider in the entire Seattle Mariners organization. Things definitely were looking up as 2009 officially came to a close.

The next stop for the right hander was as a member of the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx at the AA level. The team is currently known to fans as the Jackson Generals.  2010 was not the huge success that 2009 was for Hensley. Though he managed 22 starts in 2010 he saw his innings drop from 148 in 2009 to 117 in 2010. This was due in part to some struggles adjusting to the new level of baseball and some ailments that plagued him throughout the season. As he battled, he did finish tied for second on the team in wins with seven. His final line for the season was 7 wins, 11 losses and a 4.62 ERA. One concern besides the injuries that ailed him throughout the season was his strike out rate had dropped from over 8 per 9 innings to 6.2 in 2010. Hensley hoped that 2011 would be a rebound season.

In 2011 the starting pitcher found himself once again as a member of the AA rotation. Once again he battled some injuries and ended up appearing in less starts (18) and less innings (95) as the prior 2 seasons. His stat line was very similar to his 2010 season with an almost identical ERA of  4.61 and a strike out rate of 6.1 which mirrored the prior year. While his health and performance on the field have not returned to his stellar 2009 form things are still looking up for Hensley. He still has a strong slider to go with a fastball, change-up and is adding back a curveball to his mix in 2012. After this past season ended he was one of a handful of prospects the Mariners sent to the Arizona Fall League. In the fall league he was able to learn and play with some of the top prospects in baseball. He also learned a bit about coming out of the bullpen. Which is a role that he could be transitioned to in the future. Some speculate that Hensley has the tools and makeup to help the Mariners bullpen as fast as this season.

We will be following him every step of the way here in 2012 and if he makes his big league debut we will definitely be here to cover it. Please follow Steven Hensley on twitter at @The_Hen17 and follow us on twitter at @CTD_Sypien throughout the upcoming season.

Seven Questions with Steven Hensley

You were drafted twice – once out of high school and then again as a college player. What was each draft experience like for you? What were you doing when you found out each time?

The experience of being drafted is awesome.  It was like a dream come true both times that it happened.  I was excited being drafted out of high school but the truth is, that I wasn’t ready for pro ball out of high school.  When drafted out of high school I was actually sitting in church and I got the call and had to step out of service! The second time I was sitting at home with my dad after we had went and played golf earlier that day.  They were both exciting!

After being drafted what was the signing process/experience like?

The signing process was easy for me.  I just wanted to go play so it was pretty simple to negotiate and get on the field as soon as possible.

What mix of Pitcher do you throw? What is your biggest strength as a pitcher?

My mix is a fastball, slider, change-up, and a newly added back curveball.  I think my biggest strength as a pitcher is my ability to sink the baseball and for the most part, throw a lot of strikes and get the ball in play as soon as possible.

Every player has ups and downs. In your pro-career so far what has been your biggest up and biggest down?

I’d have to say that my biggest down has been being hurt for the better part of the last two years. It has been tough physically and mentally.  I have come to understand in baseball it’s not always about your talent or if your playing well, but one of the biggest hurdles when getting to the big leagues is to be healthy.  Like they always say, “ You can’t make the team from the tub!”

My biggest up has been given the opportunity to play in the AFL this past offseason.  Even though I didn’t throw as well as I would have wanted to, I still learned a lot and was able to have fun and meet so many new people.  It was a great experience I am grateful for!

You spent some time in the AFL this offseason. Talk a bit about that experience and what you were able to accomplish there?

Well, as you can see on paper, I didn’t particularly throw too well there but I did however learn a bit there.  It was the first time for me coming out of the bullpen and I learned how I need to prepare myself day in and day out for a possible move to the bullpen in the future.  All my career I had been a starter, so getting used to the bullpen was tough but fun.

What are your goals for the 2012 season and have the Mariners discussed any expectations or plans for you entering spring training?

My number one goal is to stay healthy!  That is something that hasn’t happened over the last two years so that is first on the list!  The mariners haven’t discussed any goals but I am preparing for another full year of baseball.  All I can do as a professional is prepare myself the best I can and leave the rest up to God!

In your minor league career who has been the toughest batter you have faced so far?

The toughest batter I have faced would have to be Robinson Chirinos.  He battled me every time I took the mound 2 years ago.  The guy would always foul off a bunch of pitches and seemed like he was on everything I threw!  I hated facing him because he owned me! lol

A Few For Fun

Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Favorite non-baseball athlete?

My favorite baseball player growing up was Chipper Jones. Still is one of my favorites!  I’d have to say my favorite non baseball athlete is Aaron Rodgers.  I know they just lost yesterday but he is extremely talented quarterback and he is also an upstanding individual too.

You wear number 17, any reason why you have chosen that number?

Growing up I always wore 10 or 7 so when I was on varsity in high school as a sophomore, you can guarantee those numbers weren’t available so I just combined my favorite numbers and went with it!  I had a good year and it just stuck.

XBox or PS3? Which games to you currently play?

PS3 is my gaming console of choice and really all I play is Modern Warfare 3.  I play way too much!

Favorite Musicians?

I am a huge country music fan but not all the hip hop country.  I like Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Blake Shelton…. Just to name a few!

A big thanks to Steven for taking time out to sit down and answer some questions as his road the majors continues. We look forward to following him during the 2012 season. Please follow  Steven at @The_Hen17 to follow his progression in 2012 as well.

2 Comments on Chasing The Dream: The Steven Hensley Story and Interview

  1. JayD Stoerrle // June 3, 2012 at 3:29 am // Reply

    How do you recommend to get drafted on to the High Desert Mavericks, i’ve just graduated out of high school and i’m 16 i want to play more i’ve had 6 years of experience from when i was 10+ and i need to know how i can get on because it is a big dream of mine.

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