There are legions of talented ballplayers, but not all of them are as equally high-caliber off the field. Ty Hensley is not only one of the most prized arms in the Yankee organization, he is a man of character who is just as concerned with improving the lives of others as he is with becoming an elite pitcher. It is easy to be a Ty Hensley fan.
Ty was born in Edmond, Oklahoma. His father, Mike, was a pitcher in the Cardinals organization and went on to coach at Oral Roberts University and Kansas State. At Santa Fe High School Ty had a stellar senior season with a 1.52 ERA to go along with 111 strikeouts in 55.1 innings, earning him Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year honors among a slew of awards. After graduating he was taken by the Yankees as the 30th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
In 2012 he pitched with the Gulf Coast Yankees, going 1-2 in 4 starts with a 3.00 ERA. In 12 innings he struck out 14, walked 7, and yielded 8 runs (just 4 earned). As Ty eyes the 2013 season he was kind enough to field a few of my questions.
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How old were you when you starting dreaming about playing in the Majors and when did you realize that it could actually become a reality?
I always grew up around baseball. My dad played professionally and was a college coach, so as soon as I was old enough to pick up a baseball I was hooked. My dad’s players took me under their wings when I was a kid and I just fell in love with the game. For as long as I can remember it was a dream of mine to play pro ball and become a first round pick, but I’d say right before high school I first realized it was a possibility. I always threw hard, but I started throwing harder than everyone, I got bigger, and I slimmed down–I was 180 pounds as a 5th-grader. I knew it was in front of me, I just needed to work to get it.
What Major League player did you emulate growing up?
My dad for sure. I also loved how Roger Clemens threw. My dad and I would sit down and watch him all the time. My dad also took me to go see him when he pitched for the Astros.
Do you think he’s a Hall of Famer?
I think so. I know a lot of people would disagree with that, but you can’t decide to keep some guys out and let other guys in. I definitely think it’s wrong to use steroids, but you don’t just go out and win seven Cy Young Awards.
That was one of the coolest things. To look back and think I was a 1st round pick out of high school, and to think I’m in a group with Jeter and [Phil] Hughes–it’s not a bad group. It’s really a blessing. It feels good. [Laughs]
What pitch are you most confident about and why?
I’m most confident about my fastball. I learned in pro ball that it’s about where you put it and how you use it. If you can put it where you want it it’s the toughest pitch in baseball. So I’m definitely most confident in my fastball.
Well, we love the fastball in New York.
Which Major League batter would you be most excited to face?
Luke Scott [plays for Tampa Bay]. He’s like my big brother. He’s been a mentor and my workout partner for a few years. That would be pretty cool and I think there would be a smile on my face if it ever happened. I’d still want to get the best of him of course. We’ve actually talked about the possibility of that.
What was your impression when you visited Yankee Stadium for the first time?
The team flew me up to sign my contract and I got to shag BP with the team and see the clubhouse. All I can say is that place is breathtaking. I was at a loss for words. Just being on the field and looking around… it was amazing.
How did you become a Yankee fan?
Well, I was born and raised on Long Island. My dad grew up six blocks from the Stadium in the Bronx. My grandfather was a cop and worked a lot of Yankee games, so being a Yankee fan was part of my pedigree. When they won in ’96 I was in 5th grade and just got hooked.
That’s really cool that you’ve been a fan your whole life. A lot of times Yankee fans just jump on the bandwagon.
It’s been pretty special to be a Yankee fan for so long and watch a guy like Jeter play for 16 years. I’m glad you’re a part of that too now.
Every athlete runs dream scenarios through their heads. When you think about pitching for the Yanks, what scenario do you envision?
What I think about is what I have to do to get there. When I get there I’ll think about what it’ll take to stay there, then I’ll lie awake dreaming at night. It’s a hard road to the Majors and it’s not for the faint of heart. My high school pitching coach always told me to stay in the moment and that’s what I’m trying to do.
What will be your number when you arrive in the Bronx?
My dad was #17 and that’s the number I want to wear. I don’t know how he ended up with it. It probably just looked good on the uniform. [Laughs] If I can’t get #17 then I’ll take #71 out of respect for my dad.
What are your goals for the 2013 season?
Stay healthy, number one. Just to dominate, regardless of wherever I go. I want to try not to do too much and to just play the same game I’ve been playing since I was four or five-years-old. To just relax.
What are your hobbies aside from baseball?
This offseason I picked up playing the guitar. I’m not very good. And like every guy my age: Call of Duty. I also like fishing.
What’s the biggest fish you ever caught?
I went shark fishing when I was 12. They didn’t weigh it, but it was big.
Tell us a little about the Be Edmond Project and how you got involved.
Here in Edmond suicide has been a problem, especially in the high schools, but now it’s moving down to the middle schools as well. A 7th-grader took his own life last year. I’ve had a few times in my life where someone close to me committed suicide. It’s happening more and more and it affects so many people around you. I’m involved because I’ve experienced it and I want to get the message out. You don’t know if you’re ever going to prevent it, but if we can help Edmond, then we can move on to the next town and help them. I always believed that God gives you a talent and you have to use it to help other people and that’s why I wanted to get involved.
So the Be Edmond Project raises awareness for teen suicide. We are accepting donations to build a phone app where kids can go to get anonymous help, because often they don’t want to go to other people for help. It will also include other things that relate to teen culture as well.
Finally, how has your Christian faith shaped who you are?
My parents have always done a really good job raising me. I couldn’t ask for better influences. It’s good to be connected with God. As Christians we are blessed with so many things in our lives, so I try to be a good person and better other people’s lives. It’s helped me to stay on the right path and stay focused. The Bible verse on my Twitter page is 1 Peter 4:10 ["Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."] and that’s how I try to live my live. My faith is why I’m who I am today.
Well, Ty, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. We wish you the best this season. You have a big fan in me and we’ll keep repping #17 at Bronx Pinstripes.
That’s awesome. Thanks so much. Have a great night!
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Follow Ty on Twitter @TyHensley17.
Follow Dan on Twitter @161st_and_River.
Watch Ty’s Be Edmond PSA here.