Ty Hensley grew up around baseball, so it was no surprise that it was the career path he chose to follow. His Dad, Mike, was a second round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1988 and played three seasons of minor league ball before an arm injury ended his career.
The senior Hensley went on to coach baseball at Oral Roberts and Kansas State, so Ty was always around the sport. When Kansas State changed coaches in 2003, Mike was out of a job, but not for long. Ty asked his Dad if he could help make him to become a better all-around player. The answer to Ty's query was an easy one.
Fast forward to June, 2012 and Ty's name is called as the 30th overall pick by the New York Yankees in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. It was the first step for the Edmond (OK) Santa Fe High School star in fulfilling a lifelong goal. The next step begins when Ty makes his professional debut on July 30 for the Gulf Coast League Yankees. It will also be his 19th birthday.
I had the chance to ask Ty about draft day, his alternate plans had he not signed with the Yankees and much more.
Drew Sarver: Getting a professional contract signed came down to the final hours. Were you ever worried that it wouldn't get done? Were you prepared to attend Ole Miss (University of Mississippi)?
Ty Hensley: I was always prepared to go to Ole Miss, down to the day I made my final decision. I loved the people, the town, and the opportunity I would have had there. As far as worrying a deal wouldn't get done, well I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned when I left Tampa on June 8th.
The surprise of MRI results jolted me down to the core. I had no idea what it meant to me, let alone the Yankees. I had never experienced injury, soreness or pain in my shoulder. I doubted everything I thought I knew about me and my situation. But after a few weeks and seeing other doctors, I realized that my situation was different, but not in necessarily a bad way, and I started to feel better about things. If at the end of the day I had decided Ole Miss was the best option for me, I would not have had any trouble heading to Oxford (MS).
(An abnormality on an MRI caused Hensley's signing bonus to drop from $1.6MM to $1.2MM) 1
DS: Who called you to tell you that you had been drafted by the Yankees? What was your initial reaction?
TH: My regional crosschecker, Dennis Woody, and (Yankees) Scouting Director Damon Oppenheimer called me a pick before to let me know. I closed my eyes and said to myself, "This is really going to happen, I'm going to be a Yankee". I was humbled and excited at the same time.
DS: You've already been quoted as saying you want to get to the Majors as quickly as possible. When do you expect to be throwing off the mound at Yankee Stadium?
TH: My goal was always to be there by 21 if I passed on the college experience. I know it's lofty, but those are the types of goals I set for myself. Obviously, how I perform and the needs of the club will factor in that timeline.
DS: You got a chance to come up to NY recently. What did you think of the new Yankee Stadium?
TH: In a word, "awesome". The facility is first class, but what makes it special is the organization itself. It represents the New York Yankees and it just doesn't get any better than that. We used to have Frank Sinatra night at our house in Manhattan, KS. There wasn't a whole lot do do in that town. Mom would tell us we were in the "Big Apple" for the night, make pasta and play Frank. It hit me hard to hear "New York, New York" played after the Yankees won. It felt right.
DS: Who was your baseball idol growing up?
TH: Outside of my Dad and his players at Kansas State, Roger Clemens and Chipper Jones.
DS: How old were you when it occurred to you that perhaps you had Major League talent? Was your goal always to make it as a pitcher?
TH: I knew I was different at about the age of 12, to what degree I wasn't sure, but I always believed that the Major Leagues were in reach. Baseball was our lives, so when I was little I just thought that is what I was going to do, sort of like most kids think they will go to college after high school.
I was and am a ballplayer; it's what I do. As far as pitching goes, no not really. In fact my Dad encouraged me to let my bat play. Up until my senior year I was a switch-hitting catcher as well as a pitcher. In fact, draft websites orginally had me ranked as a catcher going into this year.
I probably would have been a top 3 round draft choice as a position player had I kept catching. But once you hit 97 on the mound though, the arm pretty much starts to trump all; add a plus curve and game over- you are a pitcher.
DS: Which of your pitches do you have the most confidence in and why?
TH: My fastball, because I can throw it for strikes whenever I need to, and my curve because when it's on it is pretty tough to hit. The bottom justs drops out.
DS: Are you going to miss getting the chance to bat in the minor leagues?
TH: Absolutely. It will make for extremely long games. I love being able to impact the game offensively.
DS: What do you do to kick back and relax?
TH: When I have time outside of workouts, I fish and hit the golf ball a little bit.
DS: If you had your choice, what number would you wear in the Majors?
TH: If I had my choice, it would be 17. It has always been my Dad's number, my number, and my brother's number. My dad had a gold necklace with 17 on it when his was playing and he gave it to me on my 17th birthday, and I will give it to my brother on his. Ironically, Oklahomans Bobby Murcer wore 1 (and 17) and Mickey Mantle wore 7 for the Yankees. I'm going to take that as a good sign!
DS: That's a little ironic for me too, since Mickey Mantle is my all-time favorite ballplayer and Bobby Murcer was my idol growing up! Great job,Ty, and best of luck to you.
TH: Thank you and I appreciate it!