Hendrickson chats about joining Revs

Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Mark Hendrickson, Somerset Patriots, York Revolution

Mark Hendrickson spent 2012 pitching in the local Susquehanna League for York Township. Bil Bowden file photo.

Mark Hendrickson spent 2012 pitching in the local Susquehanna League for York Township. Bil Bowden file photo.

This time two years ago, York resident Mark Hendrickson sat back in his York Township home. It’s a familiar place. He had purchased the town home in the late 1990s in his early years as a pro basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers, a few years before he gave up the sport to focus entirely on baseball.

Hendrickson hadn’t been in the home in the months of March and April in nearly 10 years. He had instead spent those months in past years in big league spring training, the tall left-hander pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles since 2004.

At age 37 and more than 300 big league games under his belt, Hendrickson was without a job. But the 6-foot, 9-inch southpaw still felt he had plenty left in the tank and wanted to get back out on the mound. So he returned to another familiar place, opting to pitch in the local town ball Susquehanna League, becoming a starting pitcher for York Township. It’s the same league he had played in growing up over the summers when he would come from his home state of Washington to visit relatives in York – Hendrickson’s mother is originally from Dallastown but his parents moved out to Washington when he was a child.

Hendrickson thought it wouldn’t be a problem to get big league scouts to come watch him perform on the mound for York Township.

“I was home, playing in Susquehanna League. Nobody (scouts) would come see me,” Hendrickson said. “There was no interest.”

For most of 2012, Hendrickson had people tell him to try out changing his pitching motion entirely and become a sidearmer. He resisted initially. But after making roughly a dozen starts for York Township in 2012 and getting no bites from pro scouts, he figured the change might be his only chance to keep his baseball career alive.

“If I recall, in 2012 we were in the championship. I took the loss against Red Lion. I said ‘OK. That’s it. This doesn’t do it for me.”

So Hendrickson gave the sidearm thing a try. And the Orioles gave him a chance, signing him to a minor league deal in 2013. In his 15th year as a pro baseball player, but his first as a sidearm pitcher, Hendrickson went on to post a 5-3 record and 3.06 ERA in 40 relief appearances with the O’s Class AAA Norfolk affiliate.

“Here’s the challenge the people in the public might not understand: the first part was figuring myself out. I’m talking 20-some years of pitching one way and now I’m trying to change it.,” Hendrickson said of the learning to throw sidearm. “Once I figured myself out, then I had to worry about the hitter. How does the hitter react to the pitches? Those were things that were pretty much going on on the fly in triple-A. I had maybe nine innings in spring training (last year). I took my lumps early and got better and better as I went. And that led into this year because that was a little deflating where I thought there might be some opportunities.”

He still needs to prove to himself he can succeed in the majors like he did with his old, traditional over-the-top throwing motion.

“I continue to buy into it. Given what I did last year, to me it was unfinished.”

He was once again a free agent last month. He had worked out for Boston Red Sox scouts over the off-season but couldn’t land a deal. If he wanted to get seen by big league scouts, he couldn’t go back to the Susquehanna League. So he decided to join the York Revolution. The club announced his signing over the weekend.

“I need to be seen (by pro scouts). I’m probably going through this process again. Two out of last three years I’ve been home for spring training. I’ve had time to reflect, looking for direction and answers. I’m buying into it more. I’ve done the Susquehanna League. Not to compare the two but that reduced schedule, it didn’t work out. This league (Atlantic League) here with York is very competitive. You’ve got guys with major league experience. Scouts actually go to these games and watch. Plus, I do think there’s a lot of benefits off the field as well as far as my family and friends having the opportunity to see me play. And working with the local charities I’m involved with.”

Charities like Olivia’s House, which offers programs and activities for grieving children and their families. And the travel baseball and softball organization Young York Revolution. He also hopes to promote his two-year-old real estate company, Major League Properties, at Revs games. Plus, he’ll be able to spend more time with his wife, Cortney, and his three daughters Hannah, 19, Sadie, 3, and Sophia, 1.

“It can be a win-win for a lot of things.”

ADDITIONAL INFO NOT USED IN ARTICLE:

- Hendrickson’s oldest daughter, Hannah, is currently attending Millersville University (my mom’s alma mater and the home town where I grew up) over in Lancaster County. Hendrickson said Hannah has yet to declare a major.

- There had been a 14-year gap from the time Hendrickson had last played in the Susquehanna League. What was the experience like in 2012?: “It was different. Obviously I was older. A lot of those guys when I first played were much older than me. It was still a great league. Good talent there. As far as the older generation throughout the league there are a lot of guys in their late 20s, early 30s, mid-30s. Those were family guys.”

- Did he contemplate retirement at all two years ago?: “No. Not at all. I put too much work into the off-season and preparing myself and playing.”

- I heard rumors that you had turned down a contract from the York Revolution in 2012. True?: “I did not turn down a contract. The only thing I had heard was from (Lancaster manager) Butch Hobson. Given where my kids were at the time I wanted a more controlled environment. I wasn’t too excited about a full committed baseball season. I thought, ‘OK, they’d get scouts to come watch in the Susquehanna League.’ I just could not get anybody.”

- What does your pitching repertoire consist of?: “Fastball, changeup, curve ball. Just coming from different angles and different movement. It’s more side-to-side than up and down. It took me a while to get used to it. I have to buy into it when I step up on the mound. Either you have plus-plus stuff, either you throw hard or you have deception. For me, I’m close to 6-foot-10, left-handed. I never threw it by guys to begin with. I was never a 95 miles per hour guy. This is what motivates me now is I want to see how this plays at the big league level.”

- Would you ever consider playing in the Mexican League or another foreign league if they have interest in your this season or are you strictly looking to get picked up by a big league club?:  “Never say never. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years. This is where I’m committed to start the season. I have ideas to where I want to go. If something else comes up obviously I would explore it.”

- So you made the jump from the NBA to MLB, although you were always playing baseball throughout your life. Now Tracy McGrady is trying to go from the NBA to baseball, a sport he hasn’t played since high school. What do you make of McGrady?: “I played against Tracy. It’s been awhile. I don’t know if Tracy was in my draft class or the year before. I commend him for tying it. If he made the team (Sugar Land) and we played him, I’d love to take him out to lunch because I’ve been there. He’s more of a basketball player first. For me I did both the whole time. I never really took baseball off. He’s got the ability to pick it up. Basketball players for our size we are are pretty good athletes. Eye-hand coordination has allowed him to pick up pitching. But from a baseball standpoint it’s a craft.”

- When is the last time you picked up a basketball?: “I don’t play. It’s hard to find a game that I’d be willing to play in. It’s just realizing, too, I’m not at that place in my life. It’s something I’ll probably wait until I was done to play.”

- For the most part, Hendrickson has been healthy his entire career. He credits York County residents Mindy and Brian Quesenberry of Phases Fitness for his good health, saying they’ve taught him how to properly train.

Somerset: On a separate note, the Somerset Patriots on Tuesday announced the signings of outfielder Luis Montanez and catcher Damaso Espino. Montanez, 32, is a former big leaguer who made his Atlantic League debut last season with Somerset and put up good enough numbers to get picked up by the Los Angeles Angels. Espino, 30, will make his Atlantic League debut with Somerset in his 15th pro season. He has played 176 games at the Class AAA level. Somerset now has 21 players signed, including four ex-big leaguers and seven outfielders.

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