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Former North Hall Standout Earns All-American Honors

The following article appeared in the Gainesville Times on July 3, 2009 and was written by Jonathan Zopf.

All it took was one swing for Joey Henshaw to impress his new coach.

During his senior year at North Hall in 2007, Henshaw was visited by Army baseball coach Joe Sottolano, who was on site to see whether or not he wanted to offer the 6-foot-7 southpaw a spot on his roster. It didn’t take long for him to reach a decision.

"After one swing coach Sottolano called me over and said ‘I don’t need to see anymore,’" said North Hall coach Trent Mongero. "With Joey’s body and swing mechanics, he knew what he was getting offensively."

After witnessing a few more swings, Sottolano offered Henshaw a spot on the Army baseball team and after much deliberation, Henshaw eventually packed his bags and headed to West Point.

"I always thought I’d go to an SEC school," Henshaw said. "For some reason going to West Point caught my interest and the more I looked into it, I felt it was the best opportunity I had."

The decision was not solely based on baseball.

"I know one day baseball is not going to be around," Henshaw said. "Whether it’s 15 years or two years, baseball is gonna end one day and I’m gonna have to have an education and I think West Point sets you up for success in life.

"You grow up as a person, a leader in the community, spiritually, you develop physically and mentally, and it pushes you to the max in all aspects of life."

That development transferred to the baseball field this season, and despite starting the year 20-pounds lighter because of an unspecified illness, Henshaw thrived in his sophomore year at Army, batting .383 and setting new school records with 75 RBIs and 13 home runs.

His bat helped lead the team to the regionals of the NCAA Tournament and when the season concluded, Henshaw was named an All-American.

"It’s a great honor, I wasn’t expecting anything like that," Henshaw said of being named an All-American. "It’s kind of cool. You work really hard all season and to have someone name you an All-American is a great honor. It was nice to see all the hard work paid off."

Henshaw has definitely had to put in some work to get to the level he’s playing, especially seeing he had to overcome an arm injury during his freshman year and the illness at the start of his sophomore campaign.

"It was kind of like ‘great, here we go again,’" Henshaw said.

Through patience and determination, Henshaw hit the weight room and increased his calorie intake so he could get back into playing shape. But his body still wasn’t ready to pitch. He made only seven appearances on the mound for Army this past season, accumulating a 1-1 record and 18 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings.

"I thought I came back a little too quick," he said. "The muscles in my shoulder and back weren’t ready. I felt my body wasn’t in any condition for quality starts."

With that in mind, he turned his focus to his role as the team’s designated hitter.

Batting between Clint Moore and Kevin McKague, Henshaw had a career year as Army’s cleanup hitter. He led the Patriot League in hits, home runs, RBIs and total bases and hit safely in all 20 conference games, propelling the team to its third Patriot League title in six years and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

"It was a battle 24-7, just a mental push," Henshaw said of his year at the plate. "It helped having guys like Moore and McKague hitting around me."

Henshaw didn’t slow down in the postseason, hitting .250 with eight RBIs, a double and two home runs to help Army reach its first regional final in school history. But Army’s season ended in the final, as the eventual College World Series runner up Texas Longhorns knocked off Army 14-10 on a walk-off grand slam.

"It was kind of bittersweet," Henshaw said of the loss to Texas. "We had a great season, but didn’t want to see it end like that.

"It felt like it was a season of battling," he added. "But looking back, it was a great experience."
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