Hey, if Drew Henson calls, tell him
I’m not doing any more interviews.

Jim Weber

Don’t get me wrong — he’s polite and engaging.
But I can’t continue to watch him go through denial. Let him
know I’ll be here for him when he’s ready for the other
three stages of grief.

We met in the summer of 2001 for a story I ran in the Daily. He
had just left Michigan for the New York Yankees’ Triple-A
affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. He was batting .201 at the
time.

The denial had just started.

Drew said he needed more experience — fair enough, he had
been splitting his time between football and baseball for three
years. The jump to Triple-A ball was too fast.

But what he said next was a red flag for denial: “The last
three weeks, I’ve been swinging the bat with more confidence
and feeling more comfortable.”

During a background check, I discovered his average actually
dropped during that stretch — pretty tough to do when your
average is so low.

A year later, he was batting just .242 and led the league in
strikeouts. Foolishly, I fed him an excuse, specifically asking
about the difficulty of enduring a full season in the minors.

“Obviously, (the season) is long and I can tell my body is
more tired than it has been,” Henson said in the article I
wrote, which ran in The Detroit Free Press. “The number of
games, the amount of times you come to the ballpark, it takes a
toll on your body. As laid back as baseball is, your body can get
worked down if you let it.”

Henson was starting to sound like Roger Dorn from “Major
League.” Did he really expect me to believe it was more
grueling to field ground balls and take batting practice than to
get blind-sided by a 250-pound linebacker?

Would anything shake this guy up? I had to find out.

I recalled a night during the school year when I met a high
school girlfriend of Drew’s, although I’m sure she
didn’t remember my name five seconds after the
introduction.

So I flipped the interview on him right as it was about to
end.

“By the way,” I said, “(girl’s name)
wanted me to say ‘Hi’ for her.”

Drew immediately froze and took a glazed look to the outfield
for reflection. Then, he muttered, “She’s a cute girl,
she’s a cute girl … ”

100-percent true story.

You see, Drew accepted that he and his ex weren’t meant to
be. Now if only he could come to that realization with his baseball
career.

Instead, he’s delved further into denial.

On ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” just a couple
weeks ago, Henson said that he was leaving baseball because he
missed the camaraderie of football. What’s that supposed to
mean — Henson got jealous watching Brett Favre hand out butt
slaps on Sundays?

Drew said he’d still be returning to football even if he
was penciled in as the Yankees third baseman this season —
sorry for the lack of a direct quote, but I’d throw up if I
saw the interview again.

People say he spotted a curveball about as well as Pedro Cerrano
and suffered from paralysis through analysis. Whatever the reason,
it just didn’t work.

It’s sad Drew is ashamed of his failure (and no, playing
nine games for the Yankees doesn’t make the stint a
success).

Maybe the people around Drew have brainwashed him. I mean his
agent at IMG insists Henson could still play Major League Baseball
if he wanted to. I picture this guy like Bob Sugar in “Jerry
McGuire”: constantly referring to Henson as
“baby” and telling him he’s
“money.”

But I think the real problem is that Henson is just so used to
being the “Golden Boy.” Failure — and admitting
failure — just isn’t an option. Want proof? According
to a Michigan football player, Henson said he preferred playing on
the road while he was a Wolverine because of the pressure he felt
in the Big House.

Drew, even Jordan failed at baseball. Jordan also said this:
“I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I
can’t accept not trying.”

I really respect Drew for passing up on being the top pick in
the NFL Draft to fulfill his dream of playing in the Majors
(ignoring the fact he left Michigan out to dry after Lloyd Carr
agreed not to recruit another blue-chip quarterback to compete with
him) and working his ass off to make it come true.

It’s not like Drew is another athlete answering questions
about murder, battery or drug trafficking: There’s no need to
deny anything.

I just hope he doesn’t head to the NFL afraid of failing
again, because that’s the only thing that will stop him from
becoming the type of star he hoped to become in baseball.

Drew, look how easy it is: I personally messed up this
week’s SportsMonday. The last word in Gennaro Filice’s
hockey column (“Fielding Yost’s worst nightmare comes
true”) got cut off on our lead page. Not because of my night
editors, Sharad Mattu and Ellen McGarrity. Not because of the
paper’s computer program, QuarkXPress. And not because of our
online staff, although I’d like to blame them.

I personally ruined SportsMonday’s lead page, and I accept
that.

Hell, there are probably errors all over this colum.

Jim Weber swears all errors in this article are intentional
and can be reached at
“mailto:jamesmw@umich.edu”>jamesmw@umich.edu.

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