NEW YORK (AP) – Drew Henson could have been studying film and preparing for his first start as an NFL quarterback this week.
Instead, the only studying Henson is doing is watching how his New York Yankees’ teammates prepare for pennant-race baseball.
“You get to see how major league baseball players go about their business,” Henson said yesterday after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus. “This is the highlight of my professional career so far. This is why I left school.”
Henson, one of the top quarterbacks in the nation at Michigan, gave up football to sign a $17 million, six-year contract with the Yankees in March 2001.
Despite some struggles at the plate and in the field, Henson doesn’t regret his decision – even as the football season is about to open.
“I’ll always miss playing football to some respect because I was good at it and had fun playing it,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for me to be able to do all this and watch my old teammates.”
Henson batted .240 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs in his first full season at Columbus. But he showed he has a long way to go to make the majors, striking out 151 times in 471 at-bats and committing 35 errors at third base.
“Nobody ever said it was going to be easy,” he said. “I never said it was going to be easy. All I can do is stay positive and it will all come together for me.”
Yankees manager Joe Torre said there’s no pressure on Henson this month. The Yankees had hoped he would be ready to replace Robin Ventura next season, but Torre insists this is not a tryout.
“He’s not here for us to find out anything about him,” Torre said. “We just want him to enjoy the lifestyle here and the ambiance of Yankee Stadium.”
The one thing Torre hopes Henson can learn is the differences between the daily grind of baseball and the weekly pace on football.
“It’s a matter of conditioning mentally for him,” Torre said. “You’re allowed to lose 60 games in baseball. In football, it’s not a good year if you lose more than a few games. It’s a different mentality.”
Derek Jeter knows how valuable this experience can be for Henson. Jeter spent the final month of the 1995 season watching players like Don Mattingly and Paul O’Neill. That experience paid off when Jeter won the Rookie of the Year award the next season.
“Just being here and seeing what the postseason was like helped me the following season,” he said.