Homegrown MLB athlete shares his secrets of success with Okotoks Dawgs

HendersonDawgs ThumbnailHe's no quitter. That's how Calgary-born Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Henderson is described by members of his alumni, the Okotoks Dawgs baseball team.

Taking a look at his career, it's easy to see how that description fits.

In 2008, after recovering from a devastating shoulder injury and subsequent surgery, he was released by the Chicago Cubs. He then signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, who sent him down to their minor league baseball affiliate.

Dawgs BaseballHenderson puts young pitchers through an intense winter training drill as he helps Okotoks Dawgs coaching staff teach and develop young players.

Photo by Geoff Crane
"I was having success, but they left me in A-ball for three quarters of the season. At that point I was thinking about my future with the Brewers and that this might be it. It might be over," says Henderson.

Having slugged it out in the minor leagues for over half a decade, Henderson said that he felt he owed it to himself to push on and give it his all, to see if he could make a comeback in the major leagues.

This year, he was rewarded when the Brewers called him up in the latter part of the season.

During his first seven appearances as a relief pitcher, he allowed only one earned run and six hits.

As a result, the Brewers gave him opportunities to close, pitching at critical times at the end of the game to preserve a win - a mark of trust Henderson had earned.
By season's end, Henderson sported a respectable 3.52 earned run average with a total of 45 strikeouts.

"Never give up. If you want really want something, you go out and get it."

- Jim Henderson

It was a successful run for Henderson as the Brewers used him at many key times in close games, a trend he hopes to continue next season.

His successes didn't stop there however. Henderson was named an all-star in the AAA Pacific Coast League before his call up. He was also a nominee for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's Tip O'Neill Award, given annually to Canada's top voted baseball player.

Returning the favour

In addition to working on his own career, Henderson gives back to the program that gave him his start – the Okotoks Dawgs.

The Okotoks Dawgs are a youth baseball development program that includes one of the nation's top summer collegiate teams playing out of the Western Major Baseball League.

When John Ircandia started up the Dawgs program in Calgary in 1995, Henderson was one of the original players.

Henderson says that his relationship with the Dawgs is one that he cherishes.

"I'm pretty passionate about that program. It's what got me noticed. I owe a lot to it," he says.

That's why, during the off season, Henderson is found in chilly Okotoks rather than a tropical destination, training and working with the next generation of Dawgs players.

"He's the guy, more than any other, who has always given back." Ircandia says.
The time that Henderson spends working with the players has a broad affect on their development and goals.

Brandon Newell, member of the Dawgs coaching staff says when the young players "think about not wanting to go very hard one day, all he has to do is look at them and say 'what would have happened to me if I decided to do that?' They easily kick it into gear once those words come out of his mouth."

Henderson says that he knows how important it is to drive home that message to the young players who are looking to have success in the game.

He says it's difficult to become a major league player, let alone one from Canada. It takes a strong work ethic, consistency in training and playing and above all, a lot of patience.

"Never give up," he says. "If you want really want something, you go out and get it."

On Feb. 2, 2013 Henderson will be the keynote speaker at the Okotoks Dawgs sixth annual awards banquet.

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