TAMPA, Fla. – As of today, Drew Henson is neither a major league baseball player nor a Michigan graduate. But both of those things appear to be just around the corner for the former Michigan quarterback and current New York Yankees’ prospect.
Although it is clear that he will not make the Yankees’ opening-day roster, Henson wasted no time in making his presence felt at spring training.
Henson started the Yankees’ first Grapefruit League game last Thursday at third base, and in his first at-bat, he hit a solid two-run single.
“I had fun,” Henson said. “It was nice to get out there. That first hit, get it out of the way.”
After hitting .222 last year at Triple-A Columbus, Henson’s exciting start – he batted .428 with hits in each of his first three games – in Florida was reason for optimism.
“I’m closer than I ever have been to getting to that level,” Henson said of his major-league dreams.
New York manager Joe Torre is also impressed with Henson’s potential and his performance so far this spring.
“I don’t think he’s that far away,” Torre said. “I think next spring you can look very seriously at him being our third baseman. We expect big things, and we don’t have any reservation about his high upside.”
After trading for 12-year veteran Robin Ventura this offseason, the Yankees can give Henson all the time he needs to develop.
The more immediate change for the Brighton native will come next month.
During spring training and through the early months of the season, Henson will continue to work on the last two classes he needs to graduate from Michigan.
“I’m responsible for all the work,” Henson said. “I still have to e-mail in my papers and take all the tests.”
Henson left a stellar football career and a chance at NFL fame and fortune last March, when he signed a six-year, $17-million contract with the Yankees. But he remains confident that he will return to Ann Arbor to graduate with his former classmates, four years after he first set foot on campus.
“If I’m in Columbus, which is where I will most likely start out, then I will do my best to get up there (for graduation),” Henson said.
Despite being labeled a traitor by many Michigan fans, Henson still remains close to the program.
The Michigan football games “are always on my schedule,” Henson said. “We play into September, but I caught as many games on TV as I could last year.”
Henson has also been following the exploits of his former teammate and the New England Patriots’ reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback, Tom Brady. The two talked a few days after the game, and Henson had nothing but good things to share.
“With all the hours I spent with him on the practice field, you grow to appreciate all the things he has gone through this year and what he’s been able to do,” Henson said. “I told him that I hope he enjoys it because it was a remarkable accomplishment. Guys work their whole careers to get there.”
But Henson’s career is clearly going in a different direction.
“He was a big-leaguer in football – he could have been that quarterback in that Super Bowl,” Torre said. “But he realizes that baseball is a different game. He knows there’s no magic wand you wave that makes you a player without putting in the time.”