The first Ivy League player selected in this year's MLB Draft was right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who went to the Texas Rangers in the eighth round.
Hendricks has made 30 starts out of 32 appearances during his three-year career at Dartmouth, and he experienced his best campaign as a junior this season. The 21-year-old had four complete games in nine starts, going 5-3 with a 2.47 earned-run average. In 62 innings, he yielded 53 hits while walking 11 and striking out 70.
One of Hendricks' better outings of the season came against Army on March 18, when he fanned 15 batters while allowing one run in seven innings. The 15 strikeouts were the most by a Big Green pitcher in 39 years.
This is the second time Hendricks has been drafted. He was the Angels' 39th round pick out of Capistrano Valley HS in California's Orange County.
Hendricks also caught the eye of scouts while working as a reliever for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League last summer. Coming off a sophomore campaign in which he had a 7.49 ERA, Hendricks righted the ship by posting a 1.73 ERA in 14 appearances. He logged 36.1 frames, giving up 28 hits, walking 12, and striking out 33.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound righty mixes a four-pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a newly developed slider. As he mentions in the following interview, he expects to sign and should pitch at short-season Spokane this summer.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on getting drafted by the Rangers?
Kyle Hendricks: It's a dream come true to be able to play professional baseball. The Rangers are a great organization, and the scouts that I talked to––they were all very honest with me. I'm just lucky that I have a good situation that I'm going into and that I get a chance to play baseball, which is what I love to do. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Cole: Who was your area scout out there?
Hendricks: Jay Heafner was the area guy.
Cole: He's a guy that played in the organization as recently as 2007. How often was he out there watching you pitch?
Hendricks: Jay was––I think he was at every one of my games. They had their scouting director and a couple other guys came to watch me at a couple other games. But Jay––he was at every game. He came up and met with me a couple times and talked with me. We were able to form a pretty good relationship going into draft day. Luckily things were able to work out for us yesterday.
Cole: I heard that you guys are in the middle of finals right now. Is that correct?
Hendricks: Yeah, I'm done now. I just finished a couple days ago. So I'm done.
Cole: So you weren't taking any finals on draft day?
Hendricks: No, no. I was done by the time the draft came around.
Cole: I'm sure you were done to be glad with all that stress by the time the draft came around.
Hendricks: School is obviously important to me, and going to Dartmouth, we get out late. But it was nice to get everything done with before the draft. Then I could just focus on that and wait and see what happens.
Cole: Being from all the way out in California, how did you end up across the country at Dartmouth?
Hendricks: It was a tough decision, choosing where to go to college. I could have gone to some schools out in California and played at some really good baseball programs. But the baseball program at Dartmouth––I thought it was up and coming. We had a lot of good players coming in. Just for the school aspect of it, I couldn't really turn it down, being an Ivy League school. I wanted to have the opportunity to get that kind of an education.
I went there, and the three years I spent there were the best three years you could ask for. I was able to win two Ivy League championships, and I made some great friends. I'm probably going to be going back there in the fall to take classes. I want to get closer to graduating. But yeah, I love it there and I couldn't ask for anything more.
Cole: You're obviously a junior and have the option to return and play your senior year. Can you talk a little about the chances of you signing versus returning for your senior season?
Hendricks: Right now, I'm confident that me and the Rangers will agree to terms for me to sign. I figure, at this point, I'm ready to go play pro baseball. I know that we'll come to terms, figure something out, and I'll probably be out in Washington and playing here in about a week and a half.
Cole: You had your best year statistically as a junior. What were your thoughts on your season?
Hendricks: Personally, I felt like I had a good year. Every time I took the mound, I was able to be consistent and give my team a chance to win. And then as far as the team, we came up a little short. We lost the final game in the Ivy League championship, which was disappointing. We had one weekend where we lost all four games to Yale in a conference weekend. After that, the whole team was pretty dejected.
But we were able to bounce back and show how tough we were as a team. We came back and won our next eight Ivy League games to even give us a chance to play in the championship. I'm glad we were able to come back from that and at least have a chance. But in the end, we came up just short. That's going to happen. At least we got two in the two years before that. That was good.
Cole: On a personal level, you seemed to go through a sophomore slump at least numbers-wise before bouncing back this year. What were some of the bigger differences between the two seasons for you?
Hendricks: My sophomore year, I pitched a lot of good games. But I had three games in particular where I was just terrible. I went out there––and a lot of it was mental. So after my sophomore year, I focused a lot in my mental approach to pitching and what I was thinking every time I took the mound. When I was out there, I was just trying to make good pitches.
I was really able to develop that throughout the summer and in the preseason before my junior year. That way, when I got into my junior year, I was able to be consistent––like I said––every time that I took the mound. I gave my team a chance to win. Once things started going bad, I didn't let it snowball into a terrible outing. I was able to stop it and get things back under control, which I wasn't really able to do my sophomore year.
Cole: Tell me about what is in your arsenal and what kind of pitcher you view yourself as.
Hendricks: That's one thing I do view myself as––a pitcher. I don't go out there and try and throw as hard as I can and throw it by guys. There is always a time and a place for that if you set a guy up for it. But every time I go out there, I try and just make good pitches one after another, hit my spots, and mix speeds and locations just to keep the hitters off-balance.
I have a four-seam and a two-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. I just like to use a good mix between all of those, like I said, just to keep the hitters off-balance and keep them guessing.
Cole: I'm sure this is a question you got quite a bit during your three years in college, but can you talk about the challenges of balancing the academic workload at Dartmouth with playing on the baseball team as well?
Hendricks: It's tough. Playing at a Division I baseball program––it takes up a lot of time, playing baseball. And that's what you love to do. You want to focus most of your time on that. But going to Dartmouth, being such a good school, you obviously have to put in the school hours too.
My freshman year was pretty tough, but then you kind of get into a routine and you're able to figure it out as you go along. So it wasn't too bad, but obviously that was where all my time was happening––between school and baseball.
Cole: As you look forward to getting into pro ball, is there something in particular that you're looking to develop while working with professional coaching?
Hendricks: Yeah. I've never really had a bona fide pitching coach, so that's one thing I'm really looking forward to––being able to go into the minors and have a guy that can work with me and hopefully help me develop even further.
One thing I'm actually trying to develop is a little slider. Hopefully I can have somebody who can help me with that. And I just want to keep developing my mental approach on the mound. I want to be able to get guys out. I think that's mainly it.
Cole: Have the Rangers talked to you about whether they're going to work you as a starter or a reliever? Has that even come up yet?
Hendricks: Yeah, if I end up going to play in the short season in Washington, I think I will be in the starting rotation. That's what they mentioned to me, but it's not set in stone yet. They just mentioned it to me.
Cole: Have you been a starter pretty much your whole life?
Hendricks: I've been a starter pretty much the whole time. But this last summer, in the Cape Cod League, I was actually a reliever. I had some success in the Cape Cod League. Either way, I just want to be on the mound pitching. Wherever they want to put me, I'm fine. But I've been a starter for most of my life.
Cole: You went in the eighth round. Was that about where you expected to go?
Hendricks: Yeah. Anywhere from rounds five through 10 was pretty much where I expected. Hopefully we'll be able to come to terms on something, and I'm sure I'll be playing baseball real soon here for them.
Cole: Were you sitting around the computer when your name was called?
Hendricks: Oh yeah. I was sitting by the computer watching all the picks go by. I got a phone call from the area guy, Jay. He told me, ‘Get ready, you're about to be picked.' Then I saw my name come up there and he called me and told me, ‘Congratulations.' It was exciting.
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