It was on to a new year, my senior year at Elon. That year a lot of time was spent creating and strengthening friendships, a lot of schoolwork, and of course, another challenging season against the likes of Miami, Clemson, and North Carolina as well as our first year in the Southern Conference against the College of Charleston, The Citadel, and UNC-Greensboro, among others. My role was to be a #2 or #3 and midweek starter. My personal highlight was a second victory over Clemson (this time a complete game 7-1 win) and a 6-2 record on the year. Once again, we had a good season finishing just short of an NCAA tournament bid. When we finally lost out in the SoCon tournament and our season was over, it hit me that I would probably never again play a game of organized baseball in my life. I canât even describe to you how empty and wasted a feeling that was. Most of our seniors had the same feelings. Something that was so big a part of our lives was so completely and utterly finished forever. You see, most college players who are about to be drafted, know it. They have been scouted, and talked to, or their coaches have been approached by pro scouts so they know that there are several teams looking at drafting them. In my case there was little or no inquiry or discussion. After all, what scout wants to tell his major league team they really NEED a pitcher who tops out at 83? So when the first day of the 2004 draft passed and no news had come, I was not even mildly surprised.
On the second day of the draft, about 2:00 in the afternoon, I got a call from the Detroit Tigers saying they had drafted me, Brian Hensen, from Elon University, in the 28th round of the draft. I donât think I heard anything else they told me on that call. I was simultaneously excited beyond description, and totally unbelieving of what I had just heard. My dad was there with me, (he works from home), so he shared my great news even as I was on the phone. But then I got to call my Mom at work to tell her, âyour son gets to play professional ball, I just got draftedâ.
Mom says her heart melted.
You see for all the radar guns out there, both functioning and broken, there was at least one pro scout out there who looked for something other than pitch speed. In my case, it was in the Coastal Plains League that summer, where a Detroit scout saw me, liked what he saw, made some notes (probably not about pitch speeds), and concluded on the spot that he would do everything he could to have Detroit draft me. Of course I didnât know it at the time, and wouldnât know for almost a year. But my coaches were there, working for me in the background, urging this scout to go ahead and take a chance on a soft-tosser like me.
So now I can continue my dream of playing baseball. Iâve played two years of Class A minor league ball with the Lakeland Tigers, finishing last year at the Double-A level. My role now is as a middle reliever. I still only throw about 83 or 84 mph top speed. And I still survive using a philosophy of getting ahead in the count, pitching to contact and letting my teammates showcase their defensive skills. So far it has worked pretty well, even against the great athletes and hitters in the pros. My first year the team didnât win a lot of games, but this year (2005 season) my team had the best won-loss record in all of professional baseball. That includes the majors, AAA, AA, three levels of class A ball, and various Rookie Leagues. Both years have been a blast, although winning was a lot more fun than not winning. We work hard at our craft, and sometimes the lifestyle becomes a bit tedious. But, I can't think of anyone out there with whom I would wish to trade jobs. After all, I'm still chasing my dream.