SA's Henson signs with East Central CC
Starkville Academy's Kyle Henson signed Friday to play baseball with East Central Community College. Pictured, left to right, are Johnny Henson, SA head baseball coach Neal Henry, Kyle Henson and Deana Henson. (Photo by Joel Coleman, SDN)
Flanked by his parents, Starkville Academy shortstop Kyle Henson signed to play baseball at East Central Community College on Friday.
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As Henson put pen to paper, not far away stood a coach who looked on with every bit as much pride as Henson's mother and father.
"(Henson) is my first player to get signed as a head coach," said Henry, who just completed his second season at the helm of the Volunteers. "It's exciting and makes me feel great to see him succeed."
Watching Henson find success is nothing new to Henry, particularly recently as Henson put together a standout 2011 campaign despite the fact that SA concluded the year with just a 12-17 overall record.
Though the Vols struggled at times as a group, Henson led the team in most offensive categories including batting average (.506), on-base percentage (.613), slugging percentage (.802), runs (34) and RBIs (29).
Henson was also a threat on the bases, stealing successfully 18 times out of 20 attempts.
Those type of numbers helped push Henson to his goal of playing collegiate baseball.
"It's a relief to me (to sign)," said Henson. "I've always wanted to play ball in college. It has been my goal. I even want to go on to a four-year (college), so this is the next step. I'm excited to see what I can do."
According to Henson, ECCC was the only school that offered him a scholarship. Still, he indicated it might not have mattered if he had other options.
"I went down there and they had nice facilities," said Henson. "I would have picked them over anybody probably. It's just a nice school."
As much as Henson anticipates suiting up for the Warriors, his path to Decatur was nowhere close to assured prior to the 2011 season.
While serving as the quarterback for head coach Jeff Terrill's SA football squad, Henson broke his hand last fall.
At the time, Henson wasn't sure how the injury would affect his play on the baseball diamond.
"When I broke my hand, I was like 'oh no, I'm not going to be able to swing the bat near as good,'" said Henson. "But it just kind of gave me the momentum to work harder and I came out and batted .506. I did fairly well."
As Henson put together his stellar 2011 campaign after battling back from his hand injury, Henry says Henson contributed far more to SA than just numbers.
It's those intangibles that Henry feels will be the hardest to replace.
"We'll have to fill a hole at shortstop and he'll definitely be missed with his bat and his speed," said Henry. "I called him 'Mr. Clutch' because this year he had plenty of hits that tied it up in the late innings.
"But he's also definitely an example for the younger kids. He did everything right. When I told him to do something, he said 'yes sir' and tried to do it to the best of his ability. Leadership like that breeds excellence."
While Henson will surely take his leadership qualities with him to the next level, he anticipates there will be a change in the position that he plays.
"(ECCC coaches) like me at second," said Henson. "They said I'm a good shortstop, but second fits me better. I've also got some speed so I could probably play centerfield. That's what they're thinking right now, but we'll figure it all out in the fall."
Henson also said that ECCC has no plans to redshirt him, thus cementing Henson's chance to contribute to the Warriors immediately.
That's just fine to Henson, as it's been his plan all along.
"I've always wanted to play baseball and it has been like my first love," said Henson. "When this offer came up, there wasn't any question about it, this is what I was going to do."
Henson's now-former coach can only hope that more of his players get the same opportunity to fulfill their dreams in the future.
"(Henson) is definitely a role model and an awesome kid," said Henry. "Hopefully, people will see how he acted and act just like him as they get older."