Hensley Not Taking It For Granted

In 2012, Ty Hensley became a first rounder. Selected 30th overall in the first round of the MLB draft by the New York Yankees, he was expected to be a huge power arm for the organization. However, that first summer he would pitch only 12 innings before a multitude of injuries put his career at a momentary standstill. He would not pitch competitively again for nearly two years.

Hensley was 10-0 with a 1.53 ERA and a staggering 111 strikeouts in 55.1 innings pitched coming out of high school. He was named the 2012 Gatorade Oklahoma “Baseball Player of the Year” and earned All-American honors from several different organizations.

Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 220 pounds, the righ- handed pitcher proved to be a huge power arm on the mound. Throwing a consistent 95 mph fastball, a sharp curveball, and a changeup, Hensley displayed an impressive pitching mix during his high school career. At only 18 years old, he signed with the Yankees and started his professional career, forgoing his collegiate career at Ole Miss.

During the past two years, the now 21-year old has endured five surgeries and countless months in rehab due to a hip impingement and abdominal strain. Hensley’s first surgery was on April 3 of 2013 on his right hip. The surgery was a success and went smoothly. A little over a month went by before Hensley went under the knife again, this time for his left hip on May 23, 2013. There were some complications with this surgery on his left hip, which resulted in two more surgeries on June 7 and June 9. Hensley would face one more surgery, this time on his abs on March 11 of this past year.

“I thought everything was good but then the same injury I had with my abdominal strain happened again in Spring Training," he said. "I had to go see my ab doctor and found out it had been pulled off the bone the whole time."

The road to recovery was long and strenuous for the young player. Many players experience an injury and occasional surgery. However, Hensley endured five surgeries all before his twenty first birthday. Rehab would not only prove to be another step towards his road to recovery, it had become a way of life for him.

“It was tough,” Hensley said of his rehab process. “I mean there were days that things just got so repetitive but we stuck through it and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Hensley had to do a lot of glute strengthening exercises to bring stability and strength to his hips. He also did a great deal of core strength and then focused on strengthening the muscles surrounding his core after his abdominal surgery.

“It really wasn’t that complicated to be honest with you. The frustrating part was the time that it took. Every couple months I had to be reminded by the training staff, which they did a tremendous job by the way, that it’s a process and that I just have to take each day for what it is."

Hensley did some of his rehab in New York, in the city, and in Philadelphia, but the bulk of it was down in Tampa. It took 15 months and 27 days since his first surgery but on Wednesday July 30, 2014, Hensley debuted under the lights with the Staten Island Yankees. This first game also happened to fall on his twenty first birthday and the whole experience was surreal for the young player.

“It’s definitely just humbling and makes you realize after everything that I’ve gone through that you can’t really take any of that for granted. I just love being out there and I love competing,” Hensley said after his first game back on the mound.

“I think it’s kind of ironic because I made my professional debut on my nineteenth birthday but it’s definitely wonderful to be here. I don’t think I’ll ever see another stadium that has a backdrop quite like Staten Island does."

Staten Island Yankees manager Mario Garza was happy with Hensley’s debut performance and has watched him excel throughout the season.

"I thought he looked real good early. [He was] a little inconsistent with his fastball, but I fully expect him to bounce back really well," Garza noted after Hensley's first game back.

Garza admits there was some concern for the young player since he was coming off of injury, but believes the organization did a great job of making his health a priority.

"Obviously there were some concerns coming into the season, but we're just trying to keep him healthy," Garza said. "I thought the organization did a tremendous job of monitoring and putting his health of paramount concern and creating a development plan for him that worked. He was able to improve his fastball. We started to see what we knew he had in the tank."

Towards the end of the season, Hensley had gained control of his fastball and his velocity was back. His curveball was just as good if not better than it was prior to his surgeries and he proved to be consistent on the mound. With a four-seam, two-seam fastball combination sitting in the low to mid nineties and reaching 96 mph, a curveball reaching the high seventies to low eighties, and a changeup in the mid eighties, Hensley has a powerful pitching mix.

"I'm really proud of Ty," Garza noted at the conclusion of the season. "His fastball is up to 96 which is, that's a big number. I mean that's tough. He was consistent. I thought his fastball command was very good and obviously his go-to is that plus breaking ball that he has.

"He really showed that and that was impressive. I hadn't seen a whole lot of Ty, but I got to know him and he's an excellent person, he's a hard worker, and I think he has a very bright future."

Pitching Coach Tim Norton had the opportunity to see Hensley pitch in 2012 before his injuries. Norton was at the complex in Tampa when he first got drafted and claims his initial thoughts of him then are exactly the same as now.

"The kid has electric stuff, he just needs to put it together, Norton said. "It really is just all about him being healthy and letting him go."

Hensley pitched only 2.2 innings in his season debut game in July and then only three innings in each game after that. He was very limited but performed well during his time on the mound with six strikeouts in his last game of the season against the Brooklyn Cyclones.

"I had a couple of starts where my body was kind of doing stuff I didn't want it to do. I had to just fight through it but overall I felt like I did everything I needed to do to get back on track this year," Hensley said. "You've been away from the game for so long, your body just kind of takes a while to get used to what I've been doing my whole life."

Hensley's been around baseball since he can remember. His dad, Mike Hensley, who played in the St. Louis Cardinals organization and later became a coach at Kansas State University, introduced his son to the sport. Hensley's been around baseball since he was born and his passion for the sport and desire to play has kept him motivated.

This past season with the Staten Island Yankees has helped him grow and mature as a pitcher.

"I feel like growing up mentally is definitely a big thing that's happened," Hensley said, "learning how to pitch more as opposed to throwing stuff up there trying to strike everyone out. But most importantly I learned what I need to do going forward to be the best that I can be."

In a post draft interview back in 2012, Hensley admitted his goal was to be in the majors by his twenty first birthday. Almost two years and five surgeries later, the ball player is humbled by his experiences but is also on the right track towards his dream.

"The first time I stepped on the field and especially here [on Staten Island] where there are fans and lights and the city is right there behind you, it was one of the most gratifying feelings I've ever had in my life. Once I stepped up there it made me realize that I should never ever take playing the game of baseball for granted again," Hensley concluded.

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