The following piece on junior baseball player Joey Henshaw appeared on examiner.com on April 28, 2010, and was written by Ron Mergenthaler.
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Joey Henshaw stands out. First basemen who check in at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds have a way of doing so. But when he’s digging holes and clearing fields in Nicaragua, he’s even more of a physical exhibit.
“I think the average person there is about 5-5, so I tower over all of them,” the Army junior said. “A giant white man sticks out.”
Particularly when he’s doing the sort of work in which Henshaw is involved. The destitution he has encountered when doing what is de facto missionary work is appaling. La Bamba is a rural area in which raising sugar cane is the primary form of labor. But despite his father being a pastor in a Baptist church and his own tendency to quote Bible passages with stark familiarity, it’s not just preaching he’s doing.There are a lot of kids with no place to play and no fresh water to drink, and Henshaw and some of his Army teammates are working on solving that. Hence their work building – and raising money for – a baseball and soccer field, in addition to food and medical supplies, a well and two houses. They’ve raised half of the $16,000 they’ll need to resume their work.
“The poverty is striking,” the Lula, GA native said. “I talk to kids. We do some missionary work and evangelical stuff. We tell people about Jesus Christ, not just through our work, but the way we live. It’s a life-changing experience being in a third-world country.”
It is his off-the-field work with which he takes the most satisfaction, but he’s not doing bad on it, either. Last year as a sophomore, his first as a starting player, he set Army records for most homers (13), runs batted in (75) and total bases (135), and his 80 hits was one short of a team record. It all added up to earn him a spot on the American Baseball Coaches Association Northeast first team. Prior to this season, Collegiate Baseball magazine cited him as the Patriot League’s “top player to watch.” His power – whether it be at the plate or on the mound when he’s pitching – is striking. But, as is his habit, he defers attention from himself and cites his Central American roster.
“These kids are insane,” he said of the Nicaraguan children he’s coached. “They’re all switch hitters, all their hands are reversed the way they hold the bat. They’re not mechanically sound, but their ability is ridiculous. I worked with two kids 20 minutes each and they hit rockets. I’m able to connect with them through baseball. ”
A pulled hip flexor he suffered against Cornell last month has limited Henshaw’s abililty to fully strut his stuff this season. But even having missed nine games, he’s still fourth on the team in RBIs and has a 3-1 record as a pitcher. However, it is his program –- titled “I Am Second – West Point” – that elicits the most passion. He and teammates Cody Murtle, Ken Jackson, John Buckley, Ben Koenigsfeld, Zach Price and Cody Shorter will be returning Thanksgiving week, Nov. 20 – 27.
“We’re going to make this work,” Henshaw said. “You’ll see.”